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Healthy Shorelines for Healthy Lakes

Dock Primer

Cross section of pond life and shore life

Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Cottage Life have a document called “The Dock Primer”. Below is an excerpt:

In the beginning...there was a shoreline. Perhaps it already had a dock, one that no longer suited anybody’s requirements. Perhaps the dock was falling apart, or maybe the shoreline was devoid of a dock, an empty beach with no place to moor a boat. For whatever reason, the decision was made, and that shoreline is getting a new dock.

Building a residential dock is not a difficult process. In fact, constructing a dock can be as easy as falling off a log, often with the same results. Fortunately, building a safe and stable dock is only a little more difficult than building a bad one, with the majority of not-as-good- as-they-could-be docks existing simply because the builder was unaware how little separates good from bad. This primer points both the confirmed do-it- yourselfer and the equally confirmed purchase-it-yourselfer in the direction of good docks and good dock-building practices. It also explains how to avoid some potentially damaging and costly errors. For the full scoop on docks – including plans and full construction techniques – you will need to buy The Dock Manual (Storey Books), the only resource that can explain all facets of residential dock construction. (See “ Further Reading, ” p. 22.) Coincidentally, The Dock Manual was also written by the author of this primer, which explains how I got away with borrowing some research from it.

The most important thing to know about dock construction is that no dock is a stand-alone structure. A dock has to work in harmony with that sometimes uneasy marriage of land and water known as your shoreline, and with the various uses you and your family envision for that shoreline. No two sites are alike. And no two families are alike. Celebrate this uniqueness by making note of your shoreline’s prominent features and hidden secrets. Then make a detailed map of it all. Graph paper is the preferred media for cartographic novices, as a scale can easily be assigned to the squares, such as one 1 ⁄ 4 " square equals 4' or whatever is needed to fit your cottage shoreline onto paper. A detailed map of your shoreline is your most valuable tool in building a dock. For one thing, while I’m sure you are a very nice person, you probably don’t want to build your neighbours a dock, which can happen when your carefully constructed masterpiece ends up on the wrong side of a property line (it happens).

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