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Get Your Camp (a.k.a., Cottage or Cabin) Ready for Summer
by William Laflamme

After a long northern New England winter it’s that time of year again when the
earth starts to warm and the lakes shed their icy coats. Soon it will be time to
have fun in the sun; swimming, boating and fishing at your summer retreat.

But first there is much work to be done: the cottage (or "camp" as we like to call
these cabins in northern New England) needs to be prepared for the season; the
waterline needs to be hooked up; the dock needs to be installed; and boats need
to be launched.

When going through this yearly ritual, it is important to consider possible harm
to streams and lakes and the surrounding environment from these activities.
After all, one of the main reasons you go to your camp is to enjoy the area’s
unspoiled beauty.

With regard to repair and maintenance to your retreat’s buildings and grounds,
take care when using cleaning agents, paints and stains. Use natural products
like baking soda and lemon juice when cleaning. More information on cleaning
products from less harmful materials can be found at the Maine Department of
Environmental Protection’s
pollution prevention web site.       

When using paints and stains, consider using earth tone colors so that buildings
and other structures will blend better with the natural shoreline. Paint or stain
docks away from the lake and allow at least 14 days of drying time before
putting them in the water. Make sure to clean brushes, etc. away from the water
to prevent materials from washing into the lake.

This may be a surprise to you, but when cleaning up winter debris on the
property, DO NOT rake up the duff layer of leaves and pine needles that build
up under the trees! These leaves act like a sponge and filter and help prevent
pollutants from getting into the lake. As a cottage owner it is one of the best
things you can do to protect lake water quality.

Check the shoreline and other areas of the property for soil erosion. Stabilize
these areas with vegetation or rock riprap. If more than minor maintenance and
repair is required, or if structural measures are necessary, contact your local
code enforcement officer and the DEP to determine if permits will be needed
before doing the work.

With regard to your septic system, check the leach field for any breakouts and
consider having the tank pumped if it has not been pumped in the last 3 years.
A properly functioning septic system prevents harmful pollutants from getting
into the lake.

When preparing your boat for another season, make sure to dispose of drained
lubricating oils at a recycling facility or bring the oil to your local dealer for
disposal. Wash the boat away from the water or at a commercial car wash.
Check to make sure that the boat, trailer and other equipment are free of any
hitchhiking plants. And tune-up that motor.

Following these simple rules when opening up your camp or cottage will go far
in protecting the natural resources you so enjoy as a cottage owner. We all must
work together to ensure that our natural resources remain in good condition for
future generations.

About the author: William Laflamme is the Coordinator of the Maine Nonpoint Source
Training and Resource Center with the Maine DEP's Bureau of Land and Water Quality.
Is Your Cottage Ready for Summer?
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