A Guide for Buying and Managing Shoreland

Section 11: Scenic Values and Visual Qualities

Many people value natural river and lakeshore. Visual quality comes from a sense of the untouched "natural" look. Shoreland management recognizes this value and tries to achieve it by setting minimum standards. Shoreland property owners have the privilege and the responsibility to preserve and develop their land in harmony with the natural environment. Voluntary compliance in the following areas, in addition to the setbacks, lot sizes, and other requirements mandated by local zoning, will help achieve this goal.

  • Vegetative Screening - Native vegetation along the shore presents the most natural edge to water bodies. Preserving the natural vegetation protects the integrity of the shore. Plant additional native vegetation and replace diseased trees to improve the visual quality and screening effect.
  • Structures usually make the most dramatic change to the appearance of the shore so they should be designed as sensitively as possible.
    • Size - Minimize the overall size of the structure and the profile facing the water. Face appropriate rooms toward the view of the water. Don't have bathrooms, storage rooms, closets, and garages or other windowless or small-windowed rooms face the water. Minimize building height and excessive roofs.
    • Building Materials - Select materials that are natural or have a natural appearance that blend in with the surroundings. This is important for siding as well as roofing materials.
    • Color - Color adds to our environment; however, too much color or inappropriately bright colors in the landscape can appear harsh. Carefully select your structure's color to blend in with the surroundings. Use accents to add color. Flowers and vegetation provide good accent colors.
    • Accessory Structures - If an accessory structure is needed, limit it to one. Excess structures add visual clutter to the shoreland. Incorporating storage and other uses into the main structure can eliminate the need for additional structures. If required, the structures must be built according to the local shoreland zoning ordinance. Use the same design principles as above and locate the structures away from the view of the lake and public roads.
    • Docks and Boat Storage - If these structures are necessary, limit their impact by keeping the size to a minimum and designing them to blend in with the shoreline.
    • Shoreline Alteration - Maintaining natural filter strips should limit the need to alter the shore. Erosion control devices such as retaining walls can have a negative visual impact. The DNR discourages the construction of retaining walls because of their unnatural appearance and high failure rate. Any shoreline alteration should be carefully considered and well designed. See: DNR Waters - Shoreline Alteration Information Sheets.