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Draft decision made to put Camp Rabideau to reuse

Pictured is a panoramic image of Camp Rabideau, located just inside of the Chippewa National Forest. Photo by Jillian Gandsey.

Camp Rabideau, a former Civilian Conservation Corps camp located six miles south of Blackduck inside the Chippewa National Forest, could see new life.

A draft decision was printed in a legal notice in “The American” on May 16 that the Forest Service would allow overnight use from April through October for educational programs under a special use permit.

A period for the public to give comment was given from July 26 through Aug. 26 last year. Since then, Brian Tritle, Chippewa National Forest district ranger of Blackduck, has evaluated those comments along with other environmental analyses done.

“I took a lot of time to think it over, to talk with regional office folks and our general council,” Tritle said. “So the draft decision reflects what I think is the best balance between what can feasibly be done out there, how the site can be used, but also trying to address good planning and good safety discussion.”

The environmental analysis, which found no significant impact, was part of the National Environmental Policy Act and was necessary for possible construction that could be done at the site. The draft decision included possibly building visitor and education program amenities, four parking areas and a new access road.

Tritle said that overnight use of the site seemed to be a significant change for local residents, which has never been done before.

“Some residents are fearful that someone might wander off and get bored and perform some kind of criminal activity,” Tritle said. “I think that’s kind of a stretch but it’s not outside the realm of possibility.”

During the comment period, an assessment was sent to 53 people at 44 addresses, who either commented during an initial scoping period or requested a copy. The Forest Service received 21 responses.

“In this draft decision I’m trying to balance those interests with the purpose and need for this project, all along, it has been to put Camp Rabideau to what we call reuse,” Tritle said.

Since the draft decision was announced on May 16, the public has 45 from then to file objections or other comments to the Forest Service. Objections will then be reviewed with the decision by the Darla Lenz, forest supervisor.

Seeking partners

The most recent partner interested in making use of Camp Rabideau was the Rabideau Academy and Learning Center (CALC), which has recently dissolved. CALC was a program that taught conservation skills to financially eligible youth through the Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program.

“So I actually don’t have any one particular partner at the table anymore,” Tritle said.

He also mentioned that since the camp won’t host CALC, some of the potential construction activities suggested in the draft decision wouldn’t necessarily have to happen.

Tritle said that Rabideau CCC Camp Management Project is seeking partners within the theme of conservation education for high school-aged or college-aged students.

He said that a long-term partner would be ideal for the camp, but he would also like to see the camp continue to host short-term projects as well.

“It would be nice to have a host permittee that could take in those smaller activities under their wing,” Tritle said. “Finding a partner for Camp Rabideau is a forest priority.”


Camp Rabideau was established in 1935 to provide employment and conservation skills to 200 young American men during the Great Depression.

All CCC camps were then closed down after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. In 1945 it was then used by the University of Illinois for engineering and survey students to study for the next 28 years.

When 1975 hit the University of Illinois ended its time at the camp, which then went unused for the next 30 years.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 gave Camp Rabideau $1.5 million for renovations, which makes it the most intact CCC camp in the nation, according to Tritle.

The camp was also put on the National Historic Registry in 1976 and became a National Historic Landmark in 2006.

Jillian Gandsey

Jillian Gandsey is the Multimedia Editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is an Iron Range native and a 2013 graduate of Bemidji State University. Follow Jillian on Twitter and Instagram @jilliangandsey. Contact her at 218-333-9786, 218-996-1216 or at 

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