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Great Lakes Article:

So much water, so much to learn
Freshwater Center helps area residents understand lakes, streams, wetlands
By Erica Kolaski
Cheboygan Tribune


PETOSKEY - Most Cheboygan residents know that they live in one of the most water-abundant areas in the state. From Mullet to Burt to Black, it's everywhere.

"Cheboygan County is home to three of the seven largest inland lakes in Michigan," said Doug Fuller, water resource program director for the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council.

He added that there are 344 inland water bodies, including lakes and ponds, in the county.

"There are also 51,358 acres of wetlands in Cheboygan County," said Fuller.

And many local residents make their homes along and within these areas.

What many of these residents fail to realize it that their lake front/wetland property is one of the most endangered areas of Northern Michigan.

The Watershed Council has been working to protect these areas since 1979, said spokeswoman Christina Wieland.

For residents who want to learn more about how to protect their wetland property, including how to reduce runoff pollution or reduce the erosion of their shoreline property, the Tip of the Mitt's Freshwater Center is the place to go.

Wieland said that the center was established in 2001 as a lasting home for water resource protection.

She said that there are two sites that create the center, one at 426 Bay St. in Petoskey, another located off Graham Road in Conway, on Crooked Lake.

"We are centrally located to serve all our counties, including Cheboygan," said Wieland.

She explained that the Petoskey office has an extensive water resource library, a room for water resource educational displays, a volunteer work room, a conference room and an educational stormwater runoff treat systems which are all available to the public.

Wieland said that the Crooked Lake site serves to educate the public about lake-friendly landscaping, native plants and watershed management.

"Unfortunately, it usually takes something drastic for people to realize that something needs to be done," said Wieland. She said that last year, a house located on the Lake Michigan bluffs literally collapsed into the sand due to erosion. "The foundation slid down the bluffs," said Wieland.

Shoreline erosion isn't just a problem on the Great Lakes, she added. "Many factors contribute to shoreline erosion," she explained. "Spring rains, ice shove and other natural factors contribute as well as man-made erosion."

The Freshwater Center offers in-house and on-site consultations about potential shoreline erosion. The also have a technical team that will repair and help prevent erosion, said Wieland. "Our staff can offer preventative guidelines such as how to preserve the natural rocks and vegetation along the shoreline, preventing runoff that can potentially damage the area and protecting near-shore berms that are already in place," she explained.

Wieland said that the center also offers lawn care tips for shoreline property owners including proper lawn cover, grass length, watering, pesticides and much more.

The professionals on staff have information regarding all types of water resource management, said Wieland. She said that the centers offers ways to identify wetland property as well as how to maintain septic systems to keep good water quality.

The Freshwater Center is a valuable resource to anyone who wants to improve their area or educate themselves on a variety of water resource matters, said Wieland. Contact Tip of the Mitt at 231-347-1181 for more information.

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