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Tips, Tricks, and Techniques

Written by Zach McElgunn, ELA Staff

This month’s tips, tricks, and techniques draw on the work and advice of Rosmarie Lohnes (Designer President, Helping Nature Heal). Rosmarie joined ELA members on Wednesday, September 21st for the Eco Answers with an ELA Eco Pro Q&A discussion series to discuss the prevention and mitigation of shoreline erosion. 


Rosmarie’s work in coastal management has been nationally recognized, and in 2014 she won the H.B. Nicholls Award for Coastal Management from the Coastal Zone Canada Association. This award acknowledges her significant and continuing contribution to Integrated Coastal and Ocean Management in Atlantic Canada, specifically, her contributions to the development of Living Shoreline techniques.


Rosmarie touched on a number of topics throughout the evening, her advice ranging from the tangible and material, to the business-minded and philosophical. Below, please find some highlights from Rosmarie’s exploration of the materials, processes, mindset, and purpose of 

shoreline management. 



Bring the right perspective to shoreline management…


Rosmarie emphasized early on in the evening that stopping erosion outright isn’t feasible. Wind, water, gravity, and human activity will impact our shorelines in some way or other, no matter what we do to prevent or mitigate the impact erosion has on the shoreline. As a result, she encourages us to think of shoreline erosion (and ecological landscaping more generally) as part of a larger dynamic process


By taking a more comprehensive view of shoreline management, professionals and community members alike can prioritize approaches that fit in to the larger “narrative” of the land, which will ultimately be more sustainable in the long term.


Rosmarie echoed this point again later in the evening when discussing how to effectively manage “invasive” species. She recommends that we try to shift our conversations around invasive plants to reflect more of a give/take relationship, looking for opportunities to capitalize on the resources that all plant species afford (food, construction materials, aesthetic qualities, etc.).


“We’re not in the green industry – we’re brown.” – Rosmarie Lohnes, on the importance of soil management for creating stable shorelines


Whenever rebuilding an ecosystem, our goal should be to build the soil infrastructure first in order to repair the capacity for the ecosystem to live on its own. Rosmarie’s approach to building this infrastructure involves framing up shorelines with logs and other coarse, woody debris, especially any materials that have been torn up earlier in the landscaping process, or by natural phenomena. Rosmarie suggested that this “replacement” of materials back into the landscape was similar to the development of a root system, providing a solid initial infrastructure with decomposing wood, while also reducing waste and saving on material costs.


Business advice: identify need, seek to educate, emphasize evidence and expertise


When starting a new business or attempting to grow an existing business, start by identifying needs in the community, or potential risks that your skills may be leveraged to address (e.g. shoreline erosion detrimental to private property or community spaces). 


When engaged in education efforts in the community, using food (e.g. fruit and nut trees) can provide a valuable entre to learning about effective landscape stewardship. Also, remain conscious of the fact that “we are no longer a seasonal business,” and let topics/needs of interest feed into one another. For example, Rosmarie discussed how her education series on dormant pruning helped identify a need for sharp tools, which then led to a follow-up series on tool sharpening. 


When discussing and demonstrating your expertise, use shared problems and goals as a focal point as you elucidate the complex systems in which we live and work with the environment. Make your expertise as relevant as possible to the experience and concerns of those in your community.


The use of chevrons to maintain a berm during periods of heavy rain


Form the initial chevron with heavy logs, lashed together above the storm surge line, and plant aggressively in the trough of the chevron. Include plants that have good, hearty fibers such as cape beach grass and shrubs like bayberry – even some invasive species can be good for this, when present already, Japanese knotweed can be effective or beach rose can be another alternative. However, if invasive species start to threaten native plants, do what you can to trim back the invasive plants so that their photosynthesis is limited, and native species are not prevented from accessing sunlight and soil nutrients. 


Editors note: Try native species such as bayberry and cape beach grass to hold the chevrons in place. Another non-native that is less aggressive than Japanese knotweed, beach rose, can also be used in this application.


General advice when building spaces for reflection, comfort, human emotion and experience


Push beyond aesthetics to consider the lived experience of those who use the spaces you help shape. Wood chips can be a great soft, low-trip-risk trail padding for clients who plan to grow old in their outdoor spaces


Being attentive to what clients value most in terms of aesthetics, and placing sitting areas so that those valued objects/perspectives are visible (certain trees with sentimental value, for example). 


When discussing the project with the client prior to starting, ask questions that center their experience on the land. For example, “how do you want to experience the wind?” or “what do you most want to see out the windows?” or “what about this land are you most excited to share with your family?” 


Try to notice what your clients notice. For example, if they seem to be invigorated by the sight of squirrels or deer, consider including a few nut trees in your design in order to draw fauna to the area. 



Thank you to Rosmarie Lohnes for sharing her time, passion, and expertise with ELA members on September 21st. Also thank you to Willow Cheeley for moderating our discussion. If you’d like to view the Living Shorelines ELA Eco Pro discussion, a recording is accessible for ELA members in the Webinar Archive.