Stories From The Field

Picturing Living Shorelines in Maryland

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In 2008, the State of Maryland enacted the Living Shorelines Protection Act in an effort to reduce shoreline erosion in waterfront properties, promote natural coastal processes, and enhance habitat creation and restoration. The law encourages shoreline property owners, contractors, and others to forego hard structures such as seawalls and instead adopt “living shorelines.” These projects are typically composed of marsh plantings combined with sills, groin fields, or breakwaters. Personnel with the Living Shorelines Project at Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wanted to provide state residents with a clearer picture of how living shorelines look and function. Some landowners, engineers, and contractors had expressed concern about how these projects might look once completed.


Maryland DNR personnel completed the NOAA Office for Coastal Management’s online course in CanVis. CanVis is a free visualization software that enables users with minimal computer skills to create realistic simulations of coastal changes. Following the course, Maryland DNR personnel visited shoreline property owners who had expressed concern. Taking photos of the properties, Maryland DNR staff members then created CanVis visualizations that illustrated the likely visual impact of living shorelines on these specific properties.


Many landowners, builders, and contractors who had previously expressed concern about living shorelines have come away from CanVis presentations feeling reassured and better informed. In addition, CanVis visualizations have become an important part of Maryland DNR’s living shorelines training workshops for marine contractors, engineers, local managers, and private landowners. Maryland DNR has also included CanVis living shorelines visualizations when applying for shoreline restoration grants.

Original photo of a shoreline area.
CanVis visualization shows the likely aesthetic impact of a living shoreline in that same area.
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