Why We Love Our “Crappy Shoreline”

By Josey Vogels

We have 1100 feet of shoreline at our place. When we tell people this, they often respond with a “Wow!” At which point I quickly intervene to let them know that when you consider that our dock and useable area is really only about 20 feet and the rest is shallow, weedy, and mostly unusable, it's not so “wow.” In fact, I usually use the word “crappy” to describe our shoreline. My husband hates this. “I love our shoreline,” he defends, “it's awesome!”

Photo by Mark Yesford

Photo by Mark Yesford

He's an avid Bass fisherman, so I can't blame him. It is awesome for fishing. And, to be honest, in the years of enjoying our 'crappy shoreline' I have gradually come to agree with him. When we first bought our place back in 2005, I appreciated the shoreline because our quiet, stumpy bay meant there was no boat traffic, save for the occasional early-morning Bass fisher. It gives us great privacy on an otherwise very populated part of the lake. 

The owners before us had brought in silt to create a small swimming area in front of our dock, which I enjoyed for the first year without sinking up to my knees in muck. But since then the silt has dissipated, the weeds have grown up, and aside from the occasional quick shallow dip on one of those unbearably hot summer afternoons, you'll mostly find me sitting on the dock enjoying the plethora of wildlife (and most likely a glass of wine or a cold beer). Occasionally you'll find me blissfully floating among the lilly-pads. For any serious swimming or boating though, we have the North Bay beach, the public boat launches, and dear friends on the lake with more desirable shorelines.

Otherwise, we simply love our 'crappy shoreline.' In fact, soon after acquiring our property, we found out that, thanks to the efforts of the PLCA, our bay is actually a designated Provincially Significant Wetland. Sounds much fancier and more important then 'crappy shoreline' doesn't it?

Some years back, the PLCA commissioned an ecological analysis of Paudash Lake. It was identified as having five wetland complexes, two of which are certified as Provincially Significant. One of the latter is ours (OK, technically we don't own it but we have lovingly adopted it).

I've heard the wetlands described, quite smartly I think, as 'the lungs of the lake.' According to a PLCA information flyer "wetlands filter and clean the lake, and help prevent floods. They provide life-sustaining habitat for endangered species. These wetlands protect the water quality of Paudash Lake because the province places restrictions on development within provincially significant wetlands.”

According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, it is estimated that Ontario has more than 30,000,000 hectares of wetlands. Although there are still many wetlands in northern Ontario, they are disappearing in southern Ontario. This is not good.

As someone who sells cottages for a living, I know all too well that a swimmable shoreline is high on most people's wish list. I often get asked by people if they can 'fix up' their shorelines. But the thing about nature, as my husband likes to say, is you can try to change nature but nature always wins.

Lakes need natural shorelines to survive. Just look to the Kawarthas for proof. I'm not a scientist or limnologist but a boat ride around my sister's lake in the Kawarthas last summer, with all of the break walls and lines surrounding the shoreline, made me feel like I was boating around a man-made pond in the middle of a subdivision. The truth is, in pursuit of short-term gain and an attempt to make the shorelines less 'crappy,' they are killing their lakes. And the irony is, once you kill your lake it becomes less swimmable as algae and weeds proliferate and natural wildlife dies off due to lack of natural habitat and breeding grounds. As such, these lakes become less desirable, and properties on them less valuable. 

You do the math.

Editor's Note: The PLCA has billboards near the Paudash Eatery (hotel) and North Bay beach with maps showing the wetlands on the lake.