Education, restoration are key
It’s not unusual to see dozens of people using the trails and parks around Medical Lake – running, walking dogs or putting boats in the water.
But this well-loved lake is showing wear and tear.
Under orders from the state, the town of Medical Lake, like other local governments across Washington, is updating its shoreline master plan for its namesake.
The plan calls for replanting an area at the south end of the lake and encouraging homeowners to use native plants on their waterfront lots.
The plan has been submitted to the state Department of Ecology, which is accepting public comment until April 1.
While much of Medical Lake’s western and northern shores are natural, there has been environmental damage on the south shore next to a boat launch and in the residential section on the east shore.
The 45-acre Waterfront Park is on the southwest shore, connected to downtown by a trail that goes around the lake. Several other parks also provide public access.
Glenn Scholten, who prepared the shoreline plan under contract with the city, said restoration will focus on replanting the south shoreline near rock cliffs used by swimmers in the summer for jumping. A series of makeshift trails has created a weblike pattern of defoliation in that area.
The city is hoping to find grant money to help buy native trees and plants. It will ask for volunteer help in planting them, possibly from high school students, Scholten said.
The city also will teach homeowners to plant native plants on their lakefront property. Some property owners maintain trees and shrubs on the shoreline, while others grow lawn nearly to the water’s edge. Fertilizer can wash into the lake, damaging water quality.
While there’s nothing illegal about growing lawn instead of native vegetation, Scholten said it would be better for the lake to have more native trees, shrubs and grasses in the residential area. Plants provide forage and cover for wildlife, and shade helps keep the water cool in the summer.
On the northwest shore, city volunteers recently worked with the Lands Council to put wire cages around the trunks of about 70 trees to stop beavers from gnawing them down.
The beaver problem has been bad enough that one homeowner lost a stock of nearly 300 trees on his property shortly after planting them, Scholten said.
The shoreline update includes part of West Medical Lake and a small section of Silver Lake near a public boat launch and wetland.
The state’s shoreline law seeks to prevent any net loss of ecological function. Rather than prohibit development, the plan regulates human activity to prevent environmental loss within the shoreline zone.
Elsewhere, Spokane Valley is working on its shoreline plan update, as are Millwood, Rockford, Newport and Latah.
Pend Oreille County’s shoreline update involves Cusick, Metaline and Metaline Falls.
The city of Spokane and Spokane County have completed their updates.