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Macomb County Buffer Initiative Program

Photo by Robert McKean, Staff Photographer, Connection Newspaper

Shoreland buffers provide a link between the worlds of water and land. They are essential for the existence of many plants and animals and to the health of our lakes and streams. These places are called many things.....riparian area, buffer zone, shorelands, and shoreline.

A vegetative buffer project has been implemented (Spring of 2002) to stop erosion, filter runoff and improve water quality along the shoreline just southeast of the swimming beach in Veterans Memorial Park in St. Clair Shores. The current condition of the site is bare soil and erosion, which creates a risk to water quality.

The Macomb Conservation District has implemented (spring 2002) this project as a demonstration project. This project will demonstrate a new innovative way to address bank erosion, filter runoff and improve water quality while maintaining an aesthetic value in urban areas. This project will be an alternative to more expensive and traditional techniques like rip rap or seawalls. The proposed demonstration site is approximately 3126 square feet in size. The buffer zone will be permanent vegetation consisting of native sedges, rushes, grasses and native wildflowers. The buffer zone will be planted in the spring of 2002 with the help of volunteers, like the Yardeners of St. Clair Shores, MSU Extension Master Gardeners, the Beautification Committee and the Waterfront Advisory Committee. The planting will consist of plant plugs along with seed. The plant plugs will be planted on a 3-foot grid and seed will be broadcasted over the entire buffer zone. The plant plugs will immediately address the erosion as well as filter runoff and create aesthetic value in the first year, while the seed becomes established over the next 2 or 3 years, and fills in the spaces between the plugs. Visit Veteran's Memorial Park and check out the conservation buffer area at the beach.

During the summer of 2003, Lakeshore High School Environmental Club under the direction of science teacher Ben DeAngelo, have taken care of the area. Some volunteer plants had emerged during the spring of 2003 and a decision had to be made as to what plants could stay and what plants had to come out. With the help of the Macomb Conservation District and Lakeshore Environmental Club many of the volunteer plants were removed and the area is back on track.

During the summer of 2004, we have experienced considerable soil erosion to the buffer area. This was caused by higher Lake St. Clair water levels and storms from the northeast causing continued wave action to the buffer area. The Waterfront Advisory Committee is currently working on solutions to this problem.

During the summers of 2005 & 2006 nothing has been done to the buffer area except keep it clean.

Summer of 2007 - Because of the high energy generated by the wave action at this site, it has been recommended that the area be filled in with boulders to match the existing rip-rap along the shoreline.

Winter/Spring of 2009 - City has allocated funds to complete the recommendation of filling the area with bolders to prevent future soil erosion.

The Macomb Conservation District is also working with the St. Clair Shores Country Club to plant 5-6 acres of conservation buffers to protect water quality. Native grasses and wildflowers will be planted along some of the waterways and in areas that are considered "out of play". The goal of this project is to decrease maintenance costs, improve aesthetics on the course and to protect water quality. Hopefully, this project will initiate other golf courses around the county to think about protecting their water with similar buffers. We hope to use the St. Clair Shores Golf Course as a model of what can be done to improve water quality and still have a course that is pleasing to the public. Planting is scheduled to start in the spring of 2002. The project will probably take a few years to establish, but after establishment it should take care of itself with only a small amount of maintenance.

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