Summer visitors to Wilderness Park on Presque Isle Lake witnessed some sprucing up around the park, including new stairs to the lake’s edge and plantings inside fences. These improvements are part of a project designed to protect Presque Isle Lake by limiting soil erosion and restoring the shoreline buffer area that had been damaged. This project is a partnership between the Town of Presque Isle (including the Parks and Recreation and the Beautification committees), the Vilas County Lake and Water Conservation Department (VCLWCD) and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).
Recently, a new boat landing was installed at Wilderness Park. Park users noticed that the old boat landing area was eroding badly, taking a lot of soil into the lake. The Parks and Recreation Committee were also concerned about getting some vegetation to grow on the newly exposed soil next to the new boat landing. In addition, unauthorized trails down the steep slope to the lake were showing up, which would eventually become as eroded as the old boat landing.
“Water running off of shorelines carries soil particles and pollutants into the lake,” said Vilas County Conservation Specialist Quita Sheehan. “This can create problems such as weeds, algae or poor fishing. Keeping Vilas County lakes healthy is important for our environment and our economy.”
The Parks and Recreation Committee contacted the Vilas County Lake and Water Conservation Department for help with erosion control. A cost share program, which provides landowners with funds and technical assistance to protect water quality in Wisconsin, is available through DATCP and administered by the county. This program covers a variety of methods available for farmers and landowners to protect the surface waters of Vilas County.
Sheehan and DATCP Engineer Stacy Dehne, PE, designed a plan to address all three areas of concern: the open slope above the new boat landing the eroded old boat landing, and user developed trails down to the lake shore. Dehne and Sheehan first surveyed the park to map exactly how runoff was moving towards the lake. To get runoff to “slow down and soak in,” a series of walls were built with geo-textile bags to recreate the original slope and to provide planting habitat for native plants. Geo-textile bags look like sand bags made out of black felt. The walls created by the bags are interplanted with native plants so that they grow through the geo-textile bags and completely cover them like a living wall.
In areas where foot traffic created eroded paths, native plants were planted to stop soil erosion. In one section of the shoreline, the natural ice berm, which keeps runoff from flowing towards the lake, had also eroded. Rebuilding this eroded berm was also included in the plan.
Pat Anderson of Integrity Landscaping of Hazelhurst built the geotextile bag walls and berm with lots of help from Parks and Recreation and Beautification committee members. Hanson’s Garden Village of Rhinelander provided the native plants and put up the fencing to protect the vulnerable new plants from browsing deer. The fencing will be removed after two summers when the native plants are ready to tolerate deer browse.
Sheehan noted, “The community of Presque Isle committed time, money and a lot of hard work to this project. Bob Barofsky, Jeff Burke and Al Drum of the Parks and Recreation Committee built the stairway down the slope to provide a safe way to the lake while minimizing erosion. Ken Middleton and George Nelson of the Beautification Committee coordinated and directed the volunteers in helping to build the geo-textile bag walls and the berm, and planting the new plants.”
A lot of weeding and watering are needed during the first few summers to ensure the plants survive and thrive. Barofsky set up a watering system using the warmer and nutrient rich lake water for the plants, and Middleton donated much valued weeding time.
“I am impressed that Presque Isle is a community that takes its environmental stewardship responsibilities so seriously,” said Sheehan, “and the shoreland restoration at Wilderness Park is an excellent example of that.” Those with questions about the project at Wilderness Park, shoreland restoration or other methods of protecting surface water for landowners and farmers may contact Quita Sheehan, Vilas County Land & Water Conservation Department, at (715) 479-3747 or firstname.lastname@example.org.