Section 1: Landscape Design and Grounds Maintenance

Landscaping and grounds maintenance can play a large part in keeping your marina operations more environmentally focused. For example, your choice of landscape design and maintenance procedures can help keep harmful chemicals and other pollutants from entering the system. Your site can be designed to protect open spaces, preserve and maintain natural systems and hydrological functions, and conserve wetlands and stream corridors.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you should be able to:

Best Management Practices

Minimize Paved Areas

  • Keep paved areas to an absolute minimum (e.g., designated work areas and roadways for heavy equipment). Consider covering other areas with washed stone instead of paving them. Paved impervious surfaces increase the stormwater runoff and the potential to carry pollutants to nearby lakes and streams.
  • Where pavement is needed, use pervious pavers or porous pavement. Plant vegetation between any paved areas and the waterfront in order to filter runoff and encourage infiltration. Water quality is improved when precipitation soaks into the ground rather than running off the surface.
  • Check with local authorities to ensure compliance with local zoning ordinances.

For more on this topic, see: Stormwater Management Unit.

Use Upland and Inland Areas

Take advantage of upland areas to locate marina facilities as much as possible. Excavation of an inland area for a marina with a channel to navigable water is an acceptable alternative to locating the facility on the water body itself. The upland area would need to be reviewed for threatened and endangered species, wetlands, contaminated soils, and other regulated resources.

  • If your marina owns upland property, use property to locate service operations, parking, waste storage facilities, and boat storage away from the water, where feasible. Regional Best Management Practice
    An upland location accomplishes the following:

    • Minimizes impacts to navigation and bottomland habitats.
    • Provides protection for boats from wind and wave action.
    • Along the Great Lakes, allows for the development of condominium slips, as the developer owns the adjacent land.
    • May reduce development costs as land-based equipment can be used for the majority of the work versus marine equipment.

Locate buildings, workshops, and waste storage facilities in upland areas, away from fragile shoreline ecosystems to the greatest extent possible. Upland areas also provide a measure of protection against floods. Additional best practices include:

  • Locate parking and boat storage areas away from the water, where feasible.
  • Consider inland areas for all boat repair activities and winter storage.
  • Use hydraulic lifts or hoists to quickly and easily move boats to inland storage locations.

Expand Upward

  • Rather than adding wet slips, consider expanding storage capacity by adding dry-stack storage. Regional Best Management Practice
    Dry-stack storage provides the following environmental benefits:

    • Concentrates boats in a relatively small area.
    • Boats do not accumulate marine growth (e.g., zebra mussels). Consequently, anti-fouling coatings are not necessary and the associated need to wash, scrape, and paint is minimized.
    • As boats are less likely to accumulate water in their bilges, there is a reduction in the discharge of oily bilge water into waterways.

Best Practices for Dry-Stack Facilities:

  • Control stormwater runoff from dry-stack areas, as well as from any expanded parking areas.
  • Keep forklifts well-tuned to prevent grease or oil from dripping onto staging areas or into the water.
  • Use absorbent booms to collect any grease or oil in the launching and retrieval area in or near the dry-stack building.
  • Establish provisions to handle accidental oil and gas spills.
  • Install fire protection systems.


Conserve Sensitive Land

  • Provide a serene setting for your marina by placing adjacent, sensitive land in a conservation trust. Income, estate, and property tax benefits may be available. Regional Best Management Practice
  • Participate in programs that preserve farmland, forestland, waterfront, wetlands, rare or unique areas, scenic areas, endangered species habitat, historic properties, and open space.
  • Sell or donate the land (or the development rights to the land) to a local land trust or a non-profit organization.

Practice Water Conservation through Landscaping Practices

Save on water bills, reduce your maintenance activities, and protect water quality by minimizing water use.

  • Water only when plants indicate that they are thirsty: shrubs will wilt and grass will lie flat and show footprints. Water in the early morning or early evening when temperatures are cooler. Plants will not be shocked and water loss to evaporation will be minimized. Regional Best Management Practice
  • Select plants that are suited to the existing conditions (e.g., soil, moisture, and sunlight). These types of plants will require minimal water, fertilizer, and pesticides.
  • Water deeply and infrequently rather than lightly and often. Deep watering promotes stronger root systems, which enable plants to draw on subsurface water during hot spells and droughts. Regional Best Management Practice
  • Practice measured watering. Select equipment that delivers water prudently. Sprinklers work well for lawns. Drip (soaker) hoses or irrigation systems deliver water directly to the roots of shrubs, flowers, and trees with minimal loss to evaporation. Regional Best Management Practice
  • Place mulch (wood chips, bark, grass clippings, nut shells, etc.) to a depth of 3-4 inches around plants to keep water in the soil, prevent weeds, and reduce the amount of sediment picked up by stormwater. Planting low-growing plants (ground covers) at the base of trees serves the same function. Regional Best Management Practice
  • Group plants with similar water needs together. This practice will ease your maintenance burden, conserve water, and benefit the plants. Regional Best Management Practice
  • Replace lawn areas with native wildflowers, grasses, ground cover, shrubs, and trees.
  • Recycle “gray water.” Gray water is water that has been used once — for dish washing or in a washing machine — but is not overly contaminated. It can be filtered and used to water landscaped areas. Because regulations vary, be sure to check local ordinances for permit requirements and written approval before pursuing this option.
  • Collect rainwater by directing downspouts into covered containers, such as rain barrels or cisterns. Use the collected water on your landscaped areas. Regional Best Management Practice

Avoid Harmful Lawn Chemicals: Practice Integrated Pest Management

Because of your proximity to the water, it is important to avoid using toxic lawn and garden chemicals to the greatest extent possible. Instead, deter unwanted plants or animals with Integrated Pest Management practices. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an ecological approach to pest management. It integrates cultural, mechanical, biological, and as a last resort, chemical control methods, while minimizing impacts to non-target species, wildlife, and water quality.

  • Select disease- and insect-resistant native plants that will out-compete common weeds and that are adapted to your geography and soil conditions. Consider the degree of sun exposure, slope, drainage, shade, wind, volume of foot traffic, soil type, temperature variations, and other environmental factors that the plants will experience. Periodically rotate plants to disrupt the life cycle of pests. Regional Best Management Practice
  • Mow lawn areas properly to suppress weeds. Set your mower to cut at 2-2.5 inches. Mow each time grass reaches 3-4 inches. Avoid cutting more than 1/3 of the height. Taller grass shades out weed seeds, promotes better grass health and makes lawns resistant to burning during droughts. Regional Best Management Practice
  • Pull weeds by hand to reduce reliance on herbicides. Regional Best Management Practice
  • Boost your own tolerance for weeds and other pests. If it is not actually harming anything, leave it alone.
  • Foster natural predators such as spiders, praying mantis, dragonflies, lacewings, soldier beetles, birds, bats, frogs, lizards, and certain snakes and toads. Regional Best Management Practice
  • Use natural microbial agents like Bacillus thuringiensis or inorganic insecticides (e.g., some oils and soaps) that kill pests on contact and pose little threat to the environment. Check the label to be sure that natural agents are approved for use in aquatic systems.
  • Use pesticides only after all other options have been exhausted. Use organic alternatives to chemical pesticides. Also, rather than broadcasting pesticides, apply them directly to problem areas. Select pesticides that are designed to kill only the insect, weed, or disease organism that is causing the problem.
    • Treat only threatening or intolerable pest infestations.
    • Purchase the smallest amount of the least toxic chemical. Always store chemicals properly.
    • Do not use pesticides just before a rainfall or on a windy day.
    • Apply insecticides during the evening when honeybees and other beneficial insects are less active.
  • Do not apply pesticides near water (e.g., shore, wells, streams, ponds, bird baths, and swimming pools).
  • Use mulches to reduce weed problems, conserve moisture, and prevent soil erosion.
  • Adhere to your state’s training requirements for the application of pesticides. Regional Best Management Practice

Next: Section 2: Creating Habitat Areas