Healthy Shorelines & Lake Stewardship

It’s up to every property owner to live in balance with your waterfront ecosystem!

The popularity of retreating to Ontario’s lakes for rest and recreation continues to grow. As a result, development on the shorelines of our lakes continues. In addition, more folks are extending their time at the cottage to live there year-round. To preserve the lake environment that brought us here in the first place, it is imperative for us to understand our impacts and to know how to reduce them.

FOCA’s Shoreline Owner’s Guide to Healthy Waterfronts is the perfect overview for shoreline homeowner information. Read onward to find out what you can do to take care of your waterbody, so that future generations can enjoy it, too!

Click here to download a digital copy of the Guide (PDF, 28 pages)

Topics covered include:

  • what is a “watershed”?
  • shorelines (erosion, hardened shorelines…) & buffer zones
  • shoreline construction projects (fish-friendly dock structures)
  • aquatic plants out of control
  • invasive species & preventing the spread
  • septic systems
  • climate change and your lake
  • how to be a good “Lake Steward”
  • and more!

This publication makes a great introduction to new families at the lake, and a useful resource for quick material for your own Association newsletter.

Members may contact FOCA to acquire additional print copies of the Guide, while supplies remain in print. 

You are always welcome to circulate digital copies, using the download link above; please credit FOCA as the source, and include our web address, where possible: 

FOCA is often asked for native planting suggestions for cottage country.

There are lots of great resources, and one of them is The Natural Edge online Plant tool, which has a “Zone map” prompting you to find the hardiness zone of your property. From there, you can review a shortlist of appropriate plants, bushes, and trees for your region! The Natural Edge is a project of our partners at Watersheds Canada.

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September 2022 – We are pleased to announce the release of 3 new resources designed to help facilitate more resilient and healthy waterfront communities, created by the Watersheds Canada “Planning For Our Shorelands” Steering Committee, of which FOCA is a part. Download each resource using the links below.

Waterfront owners and municipal partners are encouraged to utilize these new shoreland resources:

  • The Science Behind Vegetated Shoreline Buffers (PDF, 34 pages) – Using highly-cited and peer-reviewed scientific studies, this document outlines the benefits of vegetated shoreland buffers, and discusses why local decision makers, landowners, developers, and landscape professionals should maintain or restore native vegetation to achieve holistic protection for waterfront properties and ecosystems.
  • Environmental Net Gain (PDF, 6 pages) – a regulatory guide, including existing municipal by-law, policy, and Official Plan examples to emulate (YOUR ROLE: tell your local municipality about this resource!)

These resources will help your municipality, and you as a property owner, to enjoy healthy and resilient waterfronts in your own community. Please spread the word!

Ready to do more? Here are your next steps:

First, “Take the Plunge” with a deeper dive into topics like light pollution, living with wildlife, designing a sustainable waterfront property, and recruiting volunteers:

Next, learn how to galvanize your community to come together and work on a Lake Plan, including a full set of templates for each step of the process:

Find out more about these resources on our Publications & Videos webpage.

Please note: the following is archival material, and some links to third-party resources may no longer be active.

Summer 2023 – read about the importance of natural shorelines in the summer edition of Nature Ontario’s magazine: ON Nature

November 2021 – FOCA’s Executive Director made a presentation about the importance of naturalized shorelines to the Hastings Highlands Council, pointing out the negative impacts of shoreline modifications on lake ecology. Watch the presentation, as part of the recording of the Council meeting (Terry Rees’ comments start around minute 8 of the recording)

May 20, 2021 – Shorelines ‘not a backyard swimming pool,’ lakefront landowners reminded: Watersheds Canada says lakes at risk from development boom in cottage country (CBC)