Greenbelt Gardens & Buffers

Buffers, also called buffer strips or greenbelts, are located between land and water help filter pollutants and improve water quality. Buffers absorb excess runoff and nutrients such as phosphorus, a culprit behind algae blooms.

The Watershed Center partners with cities and townships to install buffers, conducts buffer surveys of private and public lands, and educates the public about the aesthetic and water quality benefits of greenbelt gardens.

Greenbelt Gardens for Waterfront Properties

Do you want to increase the long-term value of your substantial investment in waterfront property while protecting water quality?

One of the easiest, most beautiful and cost-effective ways to do this is to incorporate a greenbelt garden in your landscaping.

A greenbelt garden is simply a strip of plants such as native flowers, shrubs and trees planted between your lawn and the water.  Your greenbelt can look as manicured or as natural as you like. Buffers can be professionally landscaped, or you can simply allow native seeds already in the soil to blossom into wildflowers.

Greenbelt gardens help prevent erosion. They improve water quality by absorbing excess sediments and nutrients before they reach the water.

Grass lawns that extend all the way to the water’s edge don’t do much to protect water quality. Flowers, trees and shrubs have longer roots and are more effective at absorbing nutrients and preventing erosion. Lawns create more runoff than wooded areas, as they absorb less rain. Bare lawns carry eight times as much phosphorus to waterways than wooded areas the same size.

If you would like to receive a one-on-one consultation about greenbelt buffer improvements specially suited to your property, contact Grand Traverse Baykeeper Heather Smith at 231.935.1514 ext 3.

Benefits of Greenbelt Gardens

Greenbelt buffers provide these aesthetic, time-saving and money-saving benefits:

  • Saving as much as 48% in maintenance costs as compared to traditional landscaping
  • Spending less time on high-maintenance lawn care such as mowing, weeding and fertilizing–that means more leisure time for you!
  • Preventing erosion, which is vastly more cost-effective than repairing shoreline
  • Enhancing your view of the lake by framing it with plants, grasses, shrubs and trees to render your scene even more picturesque
  • Creating a meandering path to the shore, incorporating the cherished element of unfolding and expanse in your landscape plan
  • Attracting birds, butterflies and other wildlife

The Beauty of Native Plants

Native plants, grasses, shrubs and trees are preferable.  They have longer roots, which helps absorb more runoff, sediments and nutrients to improve water quality. The longer roots are also better at preventing erosion.

Native plants are well-suited to your soil type and climate, making them remarkably hardy. Native plants are naturally drought-resistant, and pest-repellent, making them conveniently low-maintenance.

Native plants also attract diverse plant and animal life. Your yard will be teeming with beautiful birds and butterflies!

You can either purchase native plants at a local nursery or simply stop mowing your buffer strip.

Greenbelt Landscaping Resources

Many Grand Traverse area nurseries can assist you with greenbelt buffer ideas, installation and native plant sales:

  • Grand Traverse Organic Landscapes, Acme, 231.938.2626
  • Cyman Gardens, 2197 S. M-88, Bellaire, MI 49615; 231.533.8960
  • Barker Creek Nursery and Landscape, 7048 M-72 NW, Williamsburgh, MI 49690; 231.267.5972
  • Pine Hill Nursery and Landscaping, 886 N. US 31, Kewadin, MI, 49648; 231.599.2016
  • Green Leaf Nursery and Landscaping, 7916 Alden Highway, Bellaire, MI 49615; 231.331.4121


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