Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions About Green Shorelines:

Will I lose any land?

Full beach with chairs

Some homeowners are reluctant to add a beach because they are concerned about losing property. While it is true that green shorelines sometimes result in smaller lawns, the square footage remains the same. Some of the lawn is replaced with a beach and shoreline vegetation.

Essentially, you’re converting your property from one use to another. A good design will maintain the ordinary high water mark line so there is no loss of dry land.

And most homeowners don’t actively use the full extent of their lawns. Property owners who add green shorelines often find they use their beaches more than they did their lawns.

They also find their yards more attractive. Diverse plantings add visual interest in different seasons. And they like seeing visiting birds and other wildlife.

One homeowner reported that a beach cove installed by previous owners had become his favorite place to entertain company. “I wasn’t the one that had the foresight to build it, but I like to claim credit for it,” he said. “Guests love sitting out there in the evening.”

Adapted from City of Seattle, Green shorelines: Bulkhead alternatives for a healthier Lake Washington.

Will a green shoreline beach attract geese to my yard?

Just ask the goose. Sebastian the Talking Goose says geese prefer your lovely manicured lawn over a beach and natural plantings. Taking out part of your lawn to add a beach will likely mean fewer geese stop in to graze.

I’m sure you enjoy the birds and other wildlife that visit your shoreline property. That’s a major benefit of living on the water.

But Canada geese are another matter for most homeowners. They’re noisy, aggressive and messy. They’re often unwelcome guests.

A natural shoreline can actually decrease the number of visiting geese. A lawn extending to the lakeshore is a goose’s equivalent of a 24-hour salad bar. Geese eat turf grass and snails, and they prefer open areas with no shrubs and trees for predators to hide behind.

There are two effective strategies to deter geese. They can be used separately or together.

  1. Separate the beach from your yard by a few steps. This makes the ascent too much of a hassle for most geese.
  2. Plant native plants between your yard and the water. This creates a visual and physical barrier that separates the geese from your grass. You can add a path for beach access. But geese are reluctant to walk through taller vegetation.

“Our old yard was a landing strip for geese. Since we shrank the lawn area and added plants, the geese almost never come here anymore,” reports a Bellevue homeowner.

Diverse plantings are also likely to increase visits by songbirds and other desirable wildlife.

How do you deal with geese on the shoreline?

Adapted from City of Seattle, Green shorelines: Bulkhead alternatives for a healthier Lake Washington

Video created by Bret Shaw, Travis Balinas and Elizabeth Ryan from the Life Sciences Communication department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

What About My View?

Trees framing sunset on lake

Trees and other plantings can frame your lake view.

“Sure, I like plants, but maintaining my view of the water is a higher priority.”

Many homeowners favor large expanses of lawn because they see it as the best way to protect their view. The truth is that diverse plantings can accent and improve views.

Framing views is an important principle of garden and landscape design.

  • Identify which views you want to keep and enhance.
  • Identify which views would be better screened. For example, perhaps you’d rather not look at your neighbor’s shed or boat house.

You can place plants to help block or soften undesirable views while keeping your views of the water. Since houses are always sited above the high water line, it’s usually easy to keep views of the water over perennials and low shrubs.

What about trees?

Most sites can accommodate trees without losing views as long as the trees are maintained properly. You may want to do selective pruning over time to maintain your view. A good arborist can reduce the bulk of the tree and keep it healthy. Options include:

  • Trimming out the lower branches of a large tree (“limbing up” the tree).
  • Thinning the canopy so you can see between the branches.

Do not top your tree. This weakens it and leads to an undesirable thicket of branches. It may also turn it into a hazardous tree.

Trees have several advantages. They:

  • Help provide a sense of privacy.
  • Bring birds and other wildlife to your yard.
  • Absorb runoff, helping to keep the lake clean.
  • Can reduce energy costs by shading your house in the summer.
  • Help reduce global warming.

Adapted from City of Seattle, Green shorelines: Bulkhead alternatives for a healthier Lake Washington

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