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Living Shorelines

Living Shorelines

Give your shoreline new life!

Many shorelines, especially those on residential properties, have their native plants, grasses and trees replaced with wooden bulkheads and/or rock walls. While the process is designed to prevent erosion, the artificial barrier destroys the natural habitat of birds and aquatic life, and erosion still occurs behind the wall. Additionally, hard shorelines cannot filter rainwater runoff, so pollutants and sediments can easily enter the waterway and harm aquatic life.

A “living” shoreline is one that has been restored to its natural state with native plants, grasses and trees.

  • There are many benefits to living shorelines:
    • They possess the ability to absorb wave energy, thereby reducing shoreline erosion
    • Trees, shrubs and grasses naturally filter pollutants from rainwater runoff, resulting in improved water quality
    • Birds, turtles and aquatic life enjoy an expanded natural habitat
    • Waterfront properties of all types enjoy a boost in waterside "curb appeal"

    Follow our "good" tips to restore your shoreline's beauty and improve water quality.
  • Before beginning any shoreline work, consult your local county or city environmental office. Also check with your local Wetlands Board staff. You don't need a permit to plant if you don't have to bring in additional fill.
  • Understand your site conditions. Is your shoreline eroding? Is your water fresh or brackish? Where is high and low tide?
  • Select native trees, shrubs and grasses that will thrive in this climate zone and your type of water. Consider the effects of predicted sea level rise (rising tides and additional flooding) on the location and salt tolerance of long lived species like trees.
  • Plant during the right season. Trees and shrubs need lots of water when they are first planted, so the spring or fall is the best time. Depending on the weather, wetland grasses, flowering perennials, and shrubs should be planted in late winter or early spring (late March to early May) to maximize their root development and colonization of bare soil before hurricane and nor’easter season begins. Mid to late July through August should be avoided in the establishment of high marsh grasses.
  • Protect newly-planted vegetation from hungry ducks and geese by surrounding it with a plastic mesh netting, supported by wooden posts, and a network of twine connecting the tops of the posts.
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