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Deer Lake Beach restoration begins



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Parks Superintendent Larry Hess trims branches in preparation for the landscaping project on Deer Lake Beach. Photo by Mary Keck (click for larger version)
October 10, 2012 - Thanks to a $50,000 donation from the Clarkston Optimists, Deer Lake Beach is getting some TLC.

Now that swimmers and sunbathers are no longer frequent visitors to the beach, the Independence Township Parks and Recreation department has started work on improvements for next summer. They include renovations to the lifeguard hut, a new dock, and landscaping.

The new dock has already been installed and work on the lifeguard hut is underway. According to Parks, Recreation, and Seniors Director Ken Elwert, native plantings and mulching will be completed by late October by Plant Wise LLC, a business out of Ann Arbor specializing in creating and restoring native ecosystems.

Next year's beachgoers will see blossoms of butterflyweed, little blue stem, and yarrow, which are all native to Michigan. Landscaping with domestic plants is beneficial for local wildlife, said Matt Demmon of Plant Wise LLC. Demmon designed the project and will oversee installation of the plants and mulch.

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The vegetation Demmon has planned for Deer Lake will be more likely to succeed because it is already adapted to native soil and climate, making it easier to maintain without fertilizers or watering. The mulch will also be local too, said Demmon, who expects it to come right from Independence Township.

While Elwert feels the mulch and blooms of native plants will "improve the character of the beach," they offer other advantages. Salt from White Lake Road washes up to the fence line along the beach, and the new salt-tolerant plants will provide a screen from the runoff.

Elwert was tipped off to Plant Wise LLC by Springfield Township's Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Tucker who Elwert said, "has helped us through this planning process, walked the beach with us, and shared her expertise to get us going in the right direction here."

The donation from the Optimists and connecting with Springfield and Clarkston's City Manager Dennis Ritter reflects the community partnership Elwert hopes to continue as the Deer Lake Beach restoration project moves forward. In the Spring, Elwert intends to invite master gardeners, the Optimists, and volunteers to help with perennial planting.

Parks Superintendent Larry Hess began trimming limbs and removing dead trees from the beach this week in preparation for the native landscaping.

"I took swim lessons right here," he said.

Hess appreciates the donation from the Optimists and hopes the improvements will make it possible for future generations to enjoy the beach.

"It's really come together in the last few weeks," said Elwert of the beach renovations.

Although Deer Lake Beach is on its way to a new look, Elwert anticipates future projects such as restoring the beach, tackling invasive plants like phragmites, and bringing the shoreline back to pre-erosion levels.

Clarkston News reporter
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