Lake Steward Program

Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates launched Lake Steward to support lake associations as they improve water quality, increase lake association visibility, and boost membership efforts.

Lake Steward has succeeded where other efforts have failed, by using a quiz to get lakeshore owners interested, and then making contact which is personal and centered on the individual lakeshore owner, their family, and their relationship to their land and the water.  Lake Steward, by its nature, builds the feeling of community around the lake while improving water quality.

The Lake Steward idea is simple and powerful. Your lake association sends out a simple ten question questionnaire that your members can take to “score their shore.” Results go to a volunteer from the lake association, who then visits with the property owner.  If the candidate’s property meets the Lake Steward standards, they are awarded a beautiful sign designating them as a Lake Steward.  The sign (with your Lake Association Logo) is displayed at the end of the dock, visible to other lakeshore owners who then want to be a Lake Steward (and lake association members) also.

Results from the Gull Chain of Lakes Association (Lake Steward of GCOLA), show that members care deeply about their lake and water quality; they were simply waiting for an opportunity to act.  Of 614 members contacted to take the quiz, hundreds have done so. In only 2 seasons, 51 Lake Stewards have been awarded, and there are currently more than 72 owners working to become a Lake Steward. 

Over 2 and a half miles of shoreline have been protected in just two years.

The Lake Steward Program is open to all MN Lake Associations that are current members of MLR.

If your Lake Association wants to participate in Lake Steward:

  1. Email Jeff Forester at with the names of your Lake Steward Volunteers, the name of your lake and full color high resolution copy of your lake association logo (vector format (i.e., AI (Adobe Illustrator), EPS or a vector pdf)). He will email you boilerplate language you can use for an email to your members, the Lake Steward Criteria, and a Shoreline Restoration Resources list.
  2. Have your Lake Steward volunteers watch the training videos here: 
    1. Why Lake Stewards Works/How to Start Up Lake Stewards for Your Lake
    2. Lake Steward Volunteer Tool Kit

To see a video of Dorothy Whitmer talking about the Lake Steward Program on Gull Chain of Lakes – CLICK HERE

Criteria Lakeshore must meet to be a MLR Lake Steward

  1. There must be a buffer zone of native plants along at least 75% of the lakeshore that is at least 25 ft (25-50 ft) deep from water’s edge landward.  The other 25% of the lakeshore can be impervious such as beach, boathouse, deck.
  2. ​​Excluding impervious such as house or driveway, the remainder of the property must have at least 50% native trees, shrubs and plants.
  3. If there is riprap along shore, plants are allowed to grow in it.
  4. For plants in the aquatic zone, only the smallest number/amount can be removed that will allow access to the water for swimming and boating. 
  5. No broadcast fertilizer or herbicides/pesticides, including no mosquito spraying, nor aquatic treatments for plants or invertebrates.
  6. Septic system, if present, must be maintained according to best management practices, which usually includes pumping every 1-3 years depending on size of the system and number of people living at the property.
  7. There must be no evidence of stormwater runoff into the lake.  
  8. Fire pits can be detrimental to the lake because the ashes are high in phosphorus.  If there is a fire pit, it must be at least 25 ft (?50 ft) back from the water’s edge.  Pet waste should be picked up from the same area, and piles of leaves, grass clippings, etc. not permitted near the water where they could wash into the lake.
  9. Please allow fallen trees to remain in the water to provide habitat, unless they obstruct recreation access.
  10. Docks and lifts, if stored onshore, should be stacked so that the impervious surface affects the least area of the shoreline zone.