Enjoy Lake Living

Spring 2018

Some thoughts on improving our lakeshore community -- by Dave Foley


On Lake Mitchell there are more than 500 lakeshore properties with another 200 land holdings that have deeded access to the water. Many of these property owners are on an email list that I use to send information regarding activities of the Lake Mitchell Improvement Board.  


While the mission of the Improvement Board largely revolves around weed control, I receive emails at lakemitchellboard@gmail.com about other concerns of property owners. That's to be expected when you have so many folks living so close together. In some areas, lake lots  are only 25 or 30 feet wide. On holiday weekends and during the summer when  many property owners are hosting guests, the area can be as crowded as a city.  So when we have 10 times the amount of people on the lake than normal, everyone should be aware that their excessive noise and actions leave an impact, and not always a good one. 

This year I decided to highlight some of the issues that have been brought to my attention in the hopes that that may help alleviate some problems.


Fireworks all summer long     

In 2011 Governor Snyder signed into law provisions that would liberalize the sale of fireworks in Michigan. On the 4th of July holiday weekend, the shoreline of Lake Mitchell lights up with spectacular light shows and the sound of fireworks.  It's an amazing demonstration of firepower and most everyone seems to enjoy it. But judging from what I've heard, you can have too much of a good thing. It seems like that from then on you can count on at least one fireworks show every weekend night and occasionally a weekday display. Apparently this is a distressing time for family pets that may begin to howl or end up cowering under a bed. It can be frightening to war veterans as well. For anglers, if fireworks start  going off on the end of the lake where you are fishing, you might as well go home. The concussion from the blasts ends your chance of making a good catch.  Last summer when my two-year-old grandson was visiting, he awoke crying at ten o'clock when a neighbor decided to shoot off fireworks. 


The Michigan fireworks law stipulates that you can fire your legally store-bought fireworks on the national holidays, the day before and the day after, between the hours of 8 A.M. and midnight. From what I hear, many would be happier if this law was observed. 


Lights that never dim   

Looking to the east at night, the lights of Cadillac's “busy north end,” as they like to call it, turn the horizon to a yellowish brown. But on a clear night the rest of the night sky is nearly black, a perfect setup for stargazers. Perfect that is, unless your neighbor has yard lights as big as street lamps. The glare from one of these will definitely impair your night viewing. I can understand concerns about safety and safeguarding your home from intruders. What might be a logical compromise for those wishing to illuminate their property would be installing lighting that is activated  by motion.  This would give the property owner light for  moving about their yard and as well as detect anyone that approaches. When no one is about, it would be dark and the stars would be visible.


In recent years fewer fireflies have been seen. To mate, fireflies must find each other. It has been speculated that if an area is bathed in artificial light, fireflies cannot see the flickering light of other fireflies.   


What to do with all the leaves and grass clippings

During the summer, trees offer shade on blistering hot days and a brilliant color show during autumn, but then the leaves fall, carpeting lawns. The logical place to dispose of the piles of leaves in your yard is to dump them in the nearest wooded area or the lake. 


Please don't blow or rake them into the lake.  A lake bottom full of decomposing leaves provides the soft matter needed for weeds to take root. The consensus is that we already have enough aquatic vegetation.  


Most haul leaves back into the forest. If that is your choice, make sure that you check with the property owner before you leave your refuse. In the summer, when grass clippings are collected, be sure you have permission before depositing them on private land. 


Dog doings

Forty years ago when I was running along Lake Mitchell roads, it wasn't unusual to be chased by dogs. I was bitten on two occasions. Now it is rare that I am challenged by a dog. Most dogs are either on a leash or respond to the commands of their masters.  Where I am told there is a problem is dogs that defecate on lawns or driveways. I would hope that owners might pick up their dogs' doings when they fall on private property. 


Unwanted tournament fishermen 

Although it may be upsetting, bass tournament anglers can legally hover in their boats just off the end of your dock and boat casting baits under it. They are fishing there because during the summer, bass often lurk in shady places. If these fishermen step onto your dock or boat, that would be trespassing. The water, however, is open to all. 


I have found tournament anglers to be polite and they willingly offer me an update on how the fishing is that day. I might add that tournament rules forbid the consuming of alcoholic drinks during the competition.     


Working together on shared park land

Occasionally I will receive an email from a property owner living adjacent to a common area such as Hiawatha Court, Locust Lane, or Brandy Brook.  Here, and in similar situations, the complaint is that some are abusing their privilege or not doing their share of the work. Usually it is expected that those living on property with a common area will help in the putting in and taking out of docks, clearing weeds from the beach as well as raking and mowing the lawn. Enforcing this is well beyond the scope of the Lake Mitchell Improvement Board. I do encourage residents of these shared properties to get together and work out arrangements so all will do their part.    


I want to emphasize that with several hundred on our email list, the number of complaints are relatively few and solving these problems  is not the responsibility of the Lake Mitchell Improvement Board. I am bringing this information forward hoping that these reminders will bring an awareness so that lake life will be even better.      


by Dave Foley

Keep Canada geese and ducks off your lawn. Don't feed the geese or ducks. That's only logical. Not only is their defecation the wrong kind of fertilizer for your lawn, but ducks carry the parasite that, when it interacts with snails, creates swimmer's itch.

The best way to keep waterfowl off your lawn is to create a shoreline greenbelt which is a band of natural vegetation, such as wildflowers, grasses, perennials and trees. These buffer strips stabilize shoreline to help prevent erosion and filter pollutants and sediments. Uncontrolled sedimentation will alter the habitat of crayfish, mayfly larvae, and fish as well as increase phosphorous loads in the lake. Leaving a strip of natural vegetation between your lawn and the water’s edge is one of the best things you can do to discourage Canada geese from invading your property.

Don't allow raked leaves or empty grass clippings into the lake. Leaves or grass, once they decompose, will provide fertile areas to grow aquatic plants. Burning yard waste near the lakeshore is not a good solution either. Ashes contain phosphorous and nutrients that can easily make their way into the lake resulting in excess weed and algae growth.

Eliminate loosestrife or phragmites. While these plants may be attractive, they are invasive and harm native wetland vegetation. These plants should be uprooted and removed. The seeds will travel on the wind and water to new locations.

Use Phosphorus-free fertilizers and fertilizers sparingly. Rain, lawn sprinkling, and snow melt all will wash fertilizers and sediments from yards into the lake unless there is a substantial greenbelt along the shoreline. The soil in the Lake Mitchell watershed generally has more than adequate amounts of phosphorus to grow lawns. With nitrogen, apply the correct amount at the right time to maximize plant uptake and minimize off target movement. You may purchase a soil sample kit at the Michigan State Extension in the Wexford County Lake Street Building in Cadillac. They will test your soil to determine what, if any, fertilizers are needed. If you must use fertilizers, select bags that are phosphorus-free and with slow release nitrogen. If the label on the package has a zero in the middle such as 12-0-20 then you know it contains no phosphorus. Excess nitrogen can add to weed growth while phosphorous can enhance algal blooms.

Secure lightweight float toys and yard furniture. Strong winds and waves will carry these items out in the lake unless they are secured.

Protect you bird feeders from bears. Yes, there are bears living in the woods and swamps around Lake Mitchell. In the spring and fall, when there is a shortage of natural foods, bears will destroy bird feeders.

Protect your water pipes from freezing. Each winter several cottages suffer damage from burst pipes. If you're not going to be using your cottage in the winter, drain your pipes. If leaving your home overnight during the winter, turn off your water pump. Consider leaving a faucet trickling water on sub-zero nights.

Watch out for underwater hazards. Each year boat motors are damaged by underwater hazards. Submerged rocks are found near reed beds and in the area in front of and to the north of the canal.

Prevent likelihood of yard flooding. Melting snow and heavy rains may leave some lawns covered with standing water. Unable to seep into the saturated ground, water collects on low sections of land. Property owners who wonder why their yard suddenly is prone to flooding after handling runoff well for many years will likely discover that the flooding began after they expanded paved surfaces. In neighborhoods where several property owners enlarge their impervious surfaces, water retention on land surfaces can be exacerbated. Paving a driveway, building a garage or enlarging a building's footprint, covers the ground with a surface that water cannot flow through, so it must flow elsewhere. Once the ground is saturated the water pools up on the surface.