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How the lakes and streams in the area are viewed and treated is an evolving mentality. TWF works to catalyze healthy changes in the watershed, through on the ground projects and education, which will improve and protect lake quality for future generations.
For some time, concrete seawalls and other harsh barriers were implemented in many of the lakes. These walls were inexpensive, easy to maintain, and added a barrier between the lakes and yards of residents. However, scientists soon discovered that the walls did much more than barricade the lake from lawns. These man-made barriers replaced natural shorelines, decreasing plant life and animal habitat, while escalating erosion and sedimentation in the lakes.
In 2011,TWF created the Healthy Shorelines Initiative (HSI) to improve the quality and health of shorelines and lakes in the Upper Tippecanoe River Watershed. This program is unique because it seeks not only to remedy environmental damage caused by seawalls, but also to correct the root causes of that damage, which are the perceptions and attitudes of the public.
The popularity and success of the Healthy Shorelines Initiative has been tremendous. From 2011-2015, ninety-five HSI projects have been completed on 6,444 feet of shoreline on 14 lakes.
These projects included bioengineered seawalls, new glacial stone seawalls, and re-facing with glacial stone. Combined, these practices reduce erosion and nutrients from the shoreline, disperse wave action, and decrease scouring and re-suspension of bottom sediments.
The success of the Healthy Shorelines Initiative was recognized with the 2013 Lake/ Watershed Implementation Project of the Year Award from the Indiana Lakes Management Society. In addition, TWF was the first group in Indiana to be honored by the National Fish Habitat Partnership as one of the 10 “Waters to Watch” across the country.
Concerned lake property owners, who see the value in protecting the lakes, make the completion of these projects possible. The amount of involvement from the public is a valuable indicator that conditions are changing for the better on these lakes. Although the funding for this program is set to terminate, it is still important to continue the discussion about how individuals can have a healthy impact on their waters, and why it is important to learn about and protect these lakes.