Research and Demonstrations
Big Sandy Lake Shoreland Revegetation Project
In 1995, through a 319 grant, a shoreline revegetation research and demonstration project was initiated by the University of Minnesota, at Big Sandy Lake in Aitkin County. Dr. Susan Galatowitsch, U of MN Department of Horticulture, graduate student Kathryn McFadden, and Aitkin County Extension Service faculty worked with shoreland property owners and local natural resource agencies to identify four research and four control sites on Big Sandy Lake. The research plots were prepared, revegetation plan designed in conjunction the preferences of property owners, and the sites were planted in 1996. Additional species were added in 1997, and again 1999 to achieve a more "natural" transition between the yard and the rectangular research plantings.
Property owners were enthusiastic about restoring their shorelines to a more natural landscape, were supportive of the research project and use of the sites for demonstration purposes, and committed to maintaining the restored areas. Volunteers and property owners helped prepare and plant the sites. Several news articles and fact sheets were developed about the project, and the sites have been used for many educational tours for citizens and natural resource professionals.
Plant materials used in the aquatic areas were a combination of dormant rhizomes/tubers and greenhouse propagated plants. The materials for the wet meadow and upland areas were a combination of greenhouse propagated (containerized) plants and plants salvaged (mostly ferns) from a nearby road construction project.
These sites now offer a ten-year history to use in assessing shoreline revegetation projects. Plant species survival has been documented and pictures demonstrate the presence of aquatic and wet meadow that screens the house and provides habitat.
One of the property owners sold their property in 1999 and the new property owners did not want to continue the project. In 2001, another property was divided and one lot sold, including a portion of the shoreline property. Fortunately, the original property owner retained the research plot, but needed to make a pathway through it for lake access. In 2000, most of the shoreland plantings (even the "upland plots") were inundated for up to two months during unusually high flooding caused by spring meltwater and rain events. Many of the "forest" plants that were dormant survived the flooding, however, several succumbed. A portion of one site has been mowed for several years in spite of requests to maintain the "no mow" research area.
Consultation with the property owners is essential, as is ongoing contact after planting to identify invasive weeds, replace plants, respond to concerns, and trouble-shoot unforeseen challenges. Untreated turfgrass continues to compete against the installed plants and give the sites a "weedy" appearance.
Eradicating turf prior to planting is recommended where turf is well-established, but can be omitted where turf is very weak. Emergent aquatic plants established better from actively growing greenhouse and salvaged plants than from dormant rhizomes and tubers, for which there was nearly zero percent survival. Proper handling of plants prior to, during, and after planting is critical.