A Day Restoring Portage Lake’s Natural Shoreline


A Day Restoring Portage Lake’s Natural Shoreline

By Andy Nixon, Guest Contributor

A local resident has taken it upon himself to restore the damaged shoreline on Portage Lake. He invited me along to experience the passion of the project.

Ordinarily, a phone call to help move tree stumps and logs doesn’t excite me, but I was all in when Craig Kivi, of Golden Drake Realty, reached out last month regarding his shoreline restoration project, supported by his nature conservancy – Natural Shorelines Forever. The 501(c)(3) Conservancy is one of Craig’s passions, which is evident to anyone who has the pleasure of speaking with him.

The Conservancy’s two “Preserves” as he calls them, are located along the NW corner of Portage Lake just north of “mud bay”. The Norman A. Wood preserve, named after Craig’s great-grandfather, and the Louis P. Kivi preserve, named after his father carry deep meaning. According to Craig, both men not only lived and fished on Portage Lake in the 1930s but instilled curiosity and a sense of duty in Craig for nature and conservancy at a young age. At the heart of this project is Craig’s concern that what remains of Portage Lake’s natural shoreline is exponentially being destroyed by the large influx of motorboat waves that continue to increase in both size and intensity, especially over the past 5 years.

In the summer of 2021, Portage Lake experienced the first toxic algae bloom in the recorded history of the lake. Craig explains “Lake water can also become sick just like humans due to lack of natural filtration and waste excretion. Fortunately, the Preserves include three essential elements needed for this cleansing process: a natural shoreline, a bog, and a wetland.”

“Together, this natural habitat allows the water on Portage Lake to remain healthy for us all to enjoy,” adds Craig. As both a fisherman and sailor on Portage Lake myself, I was eager to help and spend a February afternoon outside learning a thing or two about this undertaking.

At the start of our workday, I met him at the staging area along with his daughter Brandi and nephew Justin. Before long, three large stumps, used as a natural barrier to protect the shoreline, were loaded onto an old farm wagon Craig had modified. After strapping down the load, we got busy towing the wagon down Mcgregor Road to the Fox Pointe beach.

We hooked the wagon load of heavy stumps to an ATV, and it was time to head across the ice. Although Craig had checked ice depths and flagged the safest route, I couldn’t help but wonder if the ice would be up to the challenge. On more than one occasion, the heavy stump trailer bowed the ice near shore.

Considering it took a forklift to load the stumps, I questioned how they would be unloaded with just the 4 of us. Craig subtly answered by handing me a 15’ aluminum sailboat mast saying, “physics.”

At his direction, I jammed the end of the mast under the first stump and heaved. With some prying, a little hanging body weight, and possibly a hernia, the first of three stumps had been placed along the shore in the permitted locations. With the remaining two stumps in their final resting place, each acts as a natural break wall to mitigate the force of each wave before hitting the shoreline. Mission completed.

I have found few things that compare to riding alongside an ATV pulling a farm wagon loaded with stumps across bowing ice. The wagon even appeared to get airborne on one occasion as it hit the ice ridges along the path but held steady. When all was said and done, we completed three trips across the frozen lake with stumps in tow, placing a total of nine along the shore.

Exhausted and sore at the end of our afternoon, it felt amazing to get my hands dirty in this conservation project. I now had a sense of accomplishment and pride that came from just one afternoon, knowing that a natural shoreline was on the way to some much-needed protection.

For those concerned about the shoreline, Craig recommends feeling the satisfaction that comes from bare hands-on work. For a DIY approach, Craig can help you obtain quick permits along with methods to place a tree branch cluster perpendicular to your shoreline. He mentioned, “by just using 10’ of your shoreline, you can make a difference in the health of the lake, fish and other creatures that share our ecosystem.”

Looking ahead, Craig and I have already chatted about the next trip over to the Preserves, this time by way of boat. His energy and passion to accomplish this project are contagious and I would encourage anyone who meets him to spend a few minutes learning more about this undertaking, which in the end benefits all of us who enjoy the inland lakes.

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