Lake management and planning are not just making technical measurements and using some scientific understanding to set values that those measurements should match. That was one view of lake plans and, in its simplest form, all that was needed was to measure total phosphorus in the water and make a plan to hold that measurement below a particular value. The reasoning was that lakes became unacceptable when they became over-fertilized (eutrophied) and thus overgrown with algae and other aquatic plants.

With too much nutrient input, the easiest nutrient to control was phosphorus. It was the easiest because excess phosphorus usually comes from human activity, particularly septic waste. So the capacity of a lake for development was measured by its total phosphorus and lake plans were seen as very mechanical plans to reduce phosphorus input. It was so simple that there was talk of “templates” that would let one lake plan be copied to many other lakes.

And there was the belief that a lake plan was an ordinary document with some maps; it could be made and it would be over. A lake plan was not seen as an ongoing, ‘living” document with many parts and the need for continued monitoring, planning, additions and changes.

A different view is that a lake management plan considers and plans to manage many variables, not just one or a few and, if possible, to manage together complexes of several variables. This view assumes that lake management and its planning has as its main objective, the satisfaction of the lake’s users. Fundamentally that includes maintaining the lake’s normal, natural processes but it also can include more complex variables such as beauty.

Everyone has his or her own idea of beauty. So managing for beauty is not simple. But it also is not to be avoided when thinking about lake management planning. The aesthetic value of a sunset against a skyline treed with pines is not easy to measure technically. Similarly, it is technically difficult to measure the difference between the beauty of a lakeside cliff with and without California-style cottages built on stilts. How do we measure the attractiveness of a lakeshore crowded to the edge with buildings compared to a shore dominated by natural vegetation hiding the buildings.

K Lake 3 DSC_0004 4x6 100dpi

Too much artificial light or noise destroys the beauty for many. Importation and insertion of urban practices into natural or semi-wild environments spoils those settings for many. Too much aquatic vegetation may not appeal to some eyes but to others, clear blue water is a clear sign of a sick ecological system and is not beautiful. A little “scum” on the water bulging with trapped bubbles ceases to be “scum” when you recognize that those bubbles are oxygen produced by photosynthesis. Bubbles from a beautiful natural process. A football-sized colony of bryozoans on a stick along the shore is repulsive, even fearsome, to those who don’t know what it is, but when you do and you know that it indicates a well-functioning aquatic system, it is another form of beauty.

Yes, beauty does have a place in lake management planning. Beauty is a reflection of many variables in the eyes of different people. It is a clear demonstration that lake management plans must consider a large complex of variables. One-size-fits-all lake plans are unlikely to work. Both lakes and their people are too variable. With that variability, it also is clear that lake planning is an ongoing process and lake plans need to be living documents. Additional monitoring and changes in the process will be needed as time goes on. People’s desires change, the lake changes, capability to manage environmental variables changes, and as people’s understanding increases, their view of what is beautiful will change. Predictive planning will constrain the responses to change that adaptive planning could allow.


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