‘Good Steward’ of the Watershed

Things You Can Do to Preserve Highland Lake and Be a "Good Steward" of the Watershed

By Clare Stevens, Water Quality/Environmental Chairperson

  1. Make a rough sketch of your lake property boundary. Indicate existing structures (house, garage, decks, driveways) and estimate the percentage of land covered by impervious surfaces. Start to determine ways you can reduce the impact of impervious surfaces by planting shrubs, plants and trees to reduce erosion. Laurel, oak and maple naturally thrive here.
  2. Assess the slope of your land and think of ways to break the surface flow of water that erodes soil into the lake. Plateau your slope with dividers such as rocks, pavers and railroad ties. Plants such as hostas, which develop extensive root systems, can border dividers and absorb surface waters.
  3. Reduce lawn size by creating “buffer gardens” near your waterfront; plant ground covers such as pachysandra, decorative grasses or low-growing shrubs. Since Winsted is the Laurel City, it might be attractive to plant some laurel bushes near your waterfront. It grows relatively slowly, needs no fertilizer and is resistant to most scales and grubs. We have a lot of mountain laurel on the perimeter of the lake that is indigenous to the watershed; it makes a beautiful display while blooming.
  4. Clear road sand and debris from storm drains on the road near your property so they’ll function effectively during heavy rain events. While the Highway Department sweeps the roads periodically, it can’t keep up with the debris that accumulates after each heavy storm. Any sand we can keep from entering the lake will add to its longevity. Never dump oil or other chemicals in storm drains. Hazardous wastes are collected at Regional Refuse Disposal District #1. RRDD #1 charges by the car; it would be helpful for you to coordinate with neighbors and take up to 15 gallons in one load.
  5. Check gutters and clean them out regularly so they’ll work effectively. By putting dry wells at corner downspouts, you can disperse the outflow of water underground and avoid erosion.
  6. Have your soil analyzed to determine the appropriate type and quantity of fertilizers you might apply to your yard or garden to support healthy plant life. Try composting to add natural, indigenous nutrients to your soil. Soil-testing kits are available for $8.00 from Litchfield County Cooperative Extension Service at the Torrington Branch of UConn (860.626.6240). The Extension Service is open Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. The soil sample is sent to the University of Connecticut Home and Garden Education Center where it is analyzed; you will receive a written report regarding the amount and type of fertilizer you need for your specific soil and type of vegetation you are growing.
  7. If you have a crushed rock drive or walkway and want to rid it of weeds, try this formula rather than a toxic pesticide: 1 gallon vinegar, 1 cup salt, a generous dose of liquid detergent. Spray on, especially on a hot, sunny day, and watch weeds wilt.
  8. Remember that purple loosestrife, while a lovely magenta “flower,” is a highly invasive aquatic weed. If you have any, please remove and dispose of it in a trash bag.
  9. Leave grass clippings on your lawn; they make excellent natural mulch and fertilizer.
  10. Use biodegradable or no-phosphate soaps to wash cars and boats. Wash them a good distance away from storm drains so soaps and chemicals don’t run into the storm drains that lead directly into the lake.
  11. Clean up your pet’s “poop”; dispose of it with your trash. Remember not to put pet litter into your toilet if you are on the grinder pump sewer system.
  12. When the deep water-level drawdown occurs and the lakebed is exposed, try pulling any weeds you wish to without just tearing off the tops. You need to get the roots as well. If the weeds are growing in sand/gravel soil, it may be more difficult to uproot them. Weeds growing in softer lakebed sediments may be removed with root intact more easily. Dispose of any weeds in the trash.
  13. During the deep drawdown, look at your retaining wall. Determine if you can secure it to avoid leaching of soil into the lake.
  14. Plant shrubs rather than build fences. Plant life helps the watershed and can provide attractive screening for privacy. It also is less of an obstruction to wildlife that seek a shoreline corridor for traveling and hunting.
  15. Read labels on all products to determine if contents are safe for the lake environment. Oil-based pesticides are generally not good for a waterbody. Sprays for shrubs, lawn grubs or power washing siding on homes often contain toxic chemicals. Remember, much of what you apply on your piece of the watershed washes into the lake. It gets dispersed throughout the lake so it affects everyone. It can also percolate down into the aquifer from which well water comes.
Being a good steward of our watershed may take a little more time, effort and thought. If we each do just one thing on this list that we were not formerly doing, it will help slow the aging process of our lake and preserve our property values.

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