Lakeshore Landscaping in Walworth County


We get so many questions about Landscaping Shorelines in this area. It’s a complicated and confusing process, so here are a few of the most common questions and basic answers.

Every situation, county, and municipality has different ordinances for vegetation removal, land disturbance, setbacks, and wetland protections. We always recommend asking a professional (like us) or the county zoning office what you can and can’t do at your particular site. If you would like to do it yourself and are up for the challenge, plan on spending a lot of time getting to know your county zoning department.

Do I need a permit to (insert anything done to your lakefront property)?

The answer is almost always yes. At the very least you will need a Land Disturbance (Erosion Control) permit anytime you do anything to the land around your lake home. Depending on what you want to do, and if it is allowed, there may be other permits needed.

Can I add a (insert landscape feature here) down by the lake?

The answer is almost always no, not legally. You cannot add anything new within 75 ft of the shoreline. This includes decks, fences, sheds (other than boathouses), patios, walls, fire pits, beaches, and unnecessary walkways. Some things are allowed with proper permits, including replacing existing features, but it is best to consult a professional or talk directly to county zoning.

Can I clear out the brush for a better view?

The strip of land 35 ft from the water is a buffer zone. You are not able to remove any vegetation other than within a view access corridor which is 35ft for every 100ft of frontage. Dead, diseased or invasive plants can be removed with approval from the county and a native planting replacement plan. Any work done below the high-water mark requires a permit.

Shoreline plantings with native plants can stabilize the shore, protect it from erosion, help with water quality, and be low maintenance in the long run. It also provides habitat and attracts wildlife we want to see (frogs, birds, butterflies) while deterring geese.

Native plants have evolved here to survive the Wisconsin weather conditions. They have extensive root systems that help stabilize the soil and decrease erosion. They are also important food and habitat for native wildlife.You might think that your choice of plants is limited, but actually there are many beautiful and easy to grow natives and native cultivars that have different sizes, forms, and colors.

Our favorites native plants for shorelines include…

Perennials and Grasses:


Butterfly Milkweed

Purple Coneflower

Prairie Smoke

Blue Flag Iris (also semi aquatic)

Blue Lobelia

Virginia Bluebells

Black eyed Susan

Little Bluestem Grass

Trees and Shrubs:


Black Aronia/Chokeberry

Birch – River and Paper




Oak – White, Bur and Swamp White

Can you just do (insert illegal lakeshore project) for me? No one will notice.

No, we will not do anything illegal. We have worked very hard to have a good reputation with the County, and will not do anything to jeopardize that. It is not worth it for us, and the consequences are costly. If you think no one with notice, you are wrong. Everyone with lakefront properties has to follow the same rules, and many homeowners have been denied projects they wanted to do. If they see someone trying to get away with something, you can bet someone will call the County on you. We often let the County know when we are working on an approved/permitted project because we know someone will always call about it.

We attend yearly Walworth County Lakeshore Landscaper training, to keep up to date on regulations and issues. If you have any questions, please call or email.

- Adam & Rachel Sandberg