With the arrival of spring flowers and warmer temperatures, many of us are busy getting our cottages and residences ready for summertime activities. As we perform this annual ritual, we must remember that spring cleaning in the country brings with it some extra environmental challenges and concerns as well as opportunities to become more responsible environmental stewards. The following are some things you should consider as you prepare your homes and properties for summer1:
- Check your property to see whether spring runoff has adversely affected any of your installations, including your septic system.
- If so, hire an expert to prepare a drainage plan that can be implemented in the fall.
- Ensure that you have municipal approval for any associated work.
- Conserve water to reduce the volume going into your septic leaching bed. High spring water tables and saturated ground may reduce the effectiveness of your system.
- If you suspect that the water table is higher than your septic leaching bed, contact a septic system inspector as you could be contaminating surface water.
- Avoid muddy driveways. Rake out ruts before they dry and harden.
- Use planks or boards to create temporary walkways. This will help to both reduce soil compaction and keep the mud outside your house and car.
To prevent damage to the shoreline, don’t put your dock into the water until the ground has hardened.
Remove man-made garbage as it can harm wildlife and their habitat. However, leave nature’s debris in place (e.g.: logs, branches, and trees that have washed up on your shoreline or beach). Resist collecting such debris for firewood as it can help prevent shoreline erosion
- Get your boat ready to launch by thoroughly cleaning it and your trailer well away from the waterway. Use suds only on land, far from the lake. Once your boat is in the water, get rid of the cleaners and use old-fashioned elbow grease.
- Apply bottom wax to your hull at least once a season.
- Consider replacing your old two-stroke engine with a low-emission model. Match engine power to boat size. Tune up your engine and keep it tuned up all summer long.
- Plan to be a “green boater” – don’t churn up the lake bottom or create wakes that can erode the shoreline (don’t operate your boat at more than 10 kph within 30 meters of the shore).
- Better yet, stop burning dollars and start burning calories by trading your motorized vessel for a canoe or kayak. This will help to improve both your health and that of the lake.
Gardening and Yard Maintenance
- When planning your gardening and yard maintenance, remember that, as of August 21st, 2011:
- all activities related to vegetative control including lawn mowing, the cleaning of brushwood, the felling of trees, and the spreading of fertilizer are prohibited on the shore;
- if the shore is not vegetated, measures must be taken to re-vegetate the area with brush cover and/or herbaceous plants;
- NB: the term shore refers to the strip of land bordering the waterway that extends inward from the high water mark. In general terms, the width of the shore to be protected is 10 meters where the slope of the shore is less than 30% and 15 meters where the slope of the shore is greater than 30%.3
- If you haven’t already done so, start composting. This will provide you with an ecofriendly product that you can use to enhance plant growth while, at the same time, reducing the amount of garbage you send to the landfill.
Summer Renovations and Repairs
If you are planning any repairs or renovations on or near the shoreline, consult your municipal inspector to ensure that your plans comply with local and regional regulations.
For many of us, summer at the lake is a highlight of our year – a time when we can relax on the dock, take the boat out for a spin, have a BBQ with friends or simply lie in the hammock and listen to the birds. Although itʼs great to enjoy the many pleasures that living by the lake can bring, we must never forget that, as stewards of this magnificent watershed, it is up to us to help protect and preserve it. The following are a few tips that will help you enjoy your summer in an environmentally responsible way1.
Protect the Shoreline
A well vegetated shoreline is the last line of defence against excessive nutrients entering our waterways. Remember that, to protect shorelines, river banks, etc., MRC regulations prohibit the mowing of lawns within 10 to 15 meters of the shoreline. For more information on this matter, please consult the Regulations page of our website.
Smart Boating Practices
- Be a safe, courteous and “green” boater. Before you put your boat into the lake, wash it thoroughly, far away from the shore. When on the water, make safety your primary concern and remember to be a good neighbour. Practice “green boating” by using environmentally friendly products, keeping your engine tuned, etc…
- Please read and follow the boating guidelines detailed in the Association’s brochure and summary sheet.
Please don’t bath or wash your hair in the lake as both of these activities can contaminate the water. If you don’t have a shower at the cottage, use a bucket of water to clean yourself well away from the shoreline. Better yet, skip the soap and use a loofah sponge to clean yourself. For more details on safe bathing practices, please read the article on our website.
- If your well is at risk of failure during dry spells, minimize water use and supplement it with water from other sources such as rainwater collection.
- To water your garden, install a drip irrigation or soaker hose system; such a system allows water to seep slowly into the soil, reducing evaporation and preventing runoff.
- Use a thick layer of mulch, like straw or shredded leaves, to reduce watering.
Septic Systems – take very good care of your septic system during the summer
- To avoid damage from roots, donʼt plant trees within two metres of the leaching bed and septic tank.
- Donʼt park your car or trailer on the leaching bed as this could seriously damage it.
- Limit the amount of water you and your guests use to avoid overloading your system. Take short showers and watch how often you flush the toilet. Be particularly vigilant when you have large crowds at the cottage.
- Repair leaking faucets, running toilets, etc., and use low volume plumbing fixtures.
- Use only phosphate free products.
- Take pressure off your system by supplementing it with a compost toilet.
For more information on the operation and maintenance of your septic system, please click here.
- Dockside water safety – keep a reach pole and personal flotation devices handy for rescues.
- Swimmer’s itch – avoid swimmer’s itch, by applying waterproof suntan lotion and towelling off vigorously immediately after swimming. Also, don’t feed the ducks as they carry a parasite that can cause swimmerʼs itch;
- Bonfires – always check the SOPFEU fire hazard level before starting any fire or using fireworks. Only build bonfires in approved containers/fire pits. Have municipal officials confirm that your fire pit meets regulations. Keep fires small and never start one on a windy day. Don’t burn driftwood that may be protecting your shoreline from erosion and never burn treated or painted wood. Store or bury ashes far away from the shoreline.
- Taking Care of the Pooch – when you take your dog for a walk, remember to “poop and scoop”. This will help prevent harmful bacteria from polluting our stormwater and our lakes.
Renovations, Repairs, and Landscaping
If you are planning any repairs, renovations, or landscaping, consult your municipal inspector to ensure that your plans comply with local and regional regulations. This is particularly important for any work done in or around the shoreline (eg: dock or boathouse repairs) as there are very stringent rules governing such activity. To review the MRCʼs regulations, please click here.
FALL & WINTER TIPS:
As the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, it is time to start thinking of what we must do to get our cottages and residences ready for winter. The following are some of things you should consider when making preparations for the cold, snowy months ahead1.
Plan Now for Spring Runoff
- Check how your drainage system is working by walking your property during a rainstorm.
- Make the necessary modifications to your drainage system and install runoff control devices as required.
- Clear drainage ditches and culverts of sediment, rocks, and other debris that could block the flow of water.
- Clear eaves-troughs and downspouts of debris.
- Clean out silt deposits from driveway runoff areas.
- Ensure that water surge deflectors are in place, if required.
- Be sure to consult your neighbour if any of the measures you plan to take could adversely affect his property.
- Weigh the pros and cons of wintering your dock on shore. If you are new to the area, talk to neighbours to learn about winter conditions. Beaching your dock can help prolong its life and protect it from being buffeted by winter storms or being squeezed by ice. However, the process of dragging it ashore might weaken the structure each time you move it, and damage your shoreline.
- If you have a floating dock and feel it is save to leave it in the lake over the winter2 , remember to loosen the anchor chain to allow the dock to rise in the spring high water. Then, disconnect the ramp from shore and place it on top of the dock. As long as your dock is anchored well and not attached to the shore, it should not be affected. Although docks can be left in a lake, deciding where to leave it can be challenging. Assess your conditions over a few seasons. If you’re not sure your dock will be safe, re-anchor it in a more sheltered location.
- As for the chains, except for those still anchoring your dock, it’s fine to leave them in the lake over the winter. The easiest way to retrieve them in spring is to tie polypropylene rope to their ends before letting them drop to the bottom. The rope floats, so in spring it will be on the surface, ready to be used to haul up the chains.
Plan for Snow Removal
- To avoid flooding problems in the spring, designate areas for piling snow that will minimize interference with spring runoff,
- Stake and mark all trees, shrubs, large rocks, runoff logs and other objects that could be damaged by snow removal equipment, or that could damage your plough or snowblower.
- If heavy snow build-up on roofs or overhangs is a concern, investigate ways to reinforce the roof and/ or make arrangements to have the snow removed during the winter.
Avoid negative encounters with wildlife by keeping them away from and out of your home.
- Block all means of entry for insects, rodents and bats via foundations, porches and steps; through doors and windows; via holes in roofs or eaves; through cracks in floors, ceilings or walls; and via access points for wires and pipes.
- Trim tree limbs that touch the roof or walls of your home. Store firewood away from main buildings or in a special shelter. Use yellow light bulbs in all outside light fixtures – insects will be less attracted to your house at night.
- Securely store food and garbage. Use animal-proof garbage cans, keep pet food inside, and keep barbecue equipment clean and in a secure area. Do not put meat, bones, dairy products, fats or cooked grains in your compost.
Compost leaves or use a mulching mower. Don’t dump leaves over banks or into ravines or the water.
- Make sure that water pipes, pumps, and outside faucets are either properly insulated or drained so they can withstand cold temperatures. Put antifreeze— use non-toxic polypropylene glycol, also known as RV antifreeze—in anything that can’t be drained, such as the toilet trap.
- Protect unheated crawl spaces. If necessary, insulate footings.
If you choose to shut off the electricity to your home/cottage in the off-season by throwing the main switch at the fuse box, be sure to turn off all major appliances, your water heater, and electrical room heaters before you turn off the main switch. This will ensure a smoother and safer start-up when you re-open your home.
Boat Motors and Other Power Equipment
When storing boat motors and other power equipment, do not drain gasoline from their fuel tanks. Instead, use a fuel stabilizer (available from your dealer or auto parts store). Winterize your engine(s) away from the water. Store boat motors, lawnmowers and other items with engines in a dry, weatherproof place. Cover anything that may rust over the winter with a coat of oil.
For more handy ideas on how to close the cottage for the winter, check out these two articles in Cottage Life:
- Several of the tips offered in this article originally appeared in “On the Living Edge: Your handbook for Waterfront Living” by Sarah Kipp and Clive Calloway as part of the Living by the Water project (www.livingbywater.ca)
- See Cottage Life for more details: http://cottagelife.com/14128/boating/maintenance/5-ways-to-be-agreener-boater
- For more details regarding the MRC de La Vallée-de-la-Gatineau regulation re Shoreline Control, click here: http://www.associationbluesea.org/en/regulation
ORIGINAL TEXT FROM: L’Association du bassin versant du lac Blue Sea