LEGIONVILLE, Minn. -- A monstrous floating bog -- about the size of three football fields -- is refusing to leave without a fight from the spot it floated into on a northern Minnesota lake north of Brainerd.
The bog has been lodged in North Long Lake in front of the Minnesota American Legion’s Legionville School Safety Patrol Training Center since last fall.
Volunteers with the North Long Lake Association, the Minnesota DNR and the Minnesota American Legion -- the owner of the camp -- worked all day Wednesday, May 16, trying to get the bog to budge. The mission was to remove the bog from its current position on the camp’s swimming beach -- where close to 700 children swim each summer -- and place it back to close to where it came from, just northwest of the camp.
The floating bog became a problem when it broke away from its shoreline in October of 2017 in Merrifield Bay on North Long Lake. The bog floated around the bay as the wind shifted -- damaging property in the process -- until it found its final resting place for the winter in front of the Legionville camp’s swimming beach.
The DNR reported the bog is about 200 feet by 800 feet. The bog is a natural wetland consisting of marsh, dead plant materials, cattails and, in this case, a line of tamarack trees.
Volunteers used several boats -- including boats donated by Evinrude -- a barge, skid-steer loaders and an excavator in their attempt to dislodge the floating mass.
The first plan tried was to chain together a row of logs and place them vertically between the shoreline and the bog. Volunteers then used skid-steer loaders and pushed the log system to try to push the bog. On the open water side of the bog was a row of boats with heavy-duty utility straps attached to pull the bog. The boats pulled and the skid loaders pushed all morning Wednesday with no success.
Plan B was to cut the bog in half.
Volunteers then put together PVC pipes, placed them underneath the bog, then threaded cable inside the pipes and attached them to the tow truck. The pipes were removed and the towing winch on the truck, slowly and steadily, wheeled the cable in to make the cut.
It took all afternoon but about 5:15 p.m. they made some progress. They were able to cut the bog in half. Success.
Volunteers made one more cut in the bog before nightfall and plans are to continue Thursday, May 17, to move the bog to its original location, a DNR forester said.
Throughout the day, the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Boat and Water Division had three boats with deputies patrolling the perimeter to set up a “safe zone” around the area to make sure boat traffic stayed out of the working area.
“It is quite an undertaking,” Sgt. D.J. Downie with the sheriff’s office said. “I do commend the North Long Lake Association for just not throwing their hands up and saying there is nothing they can do. They are trying their best, as well as the American Legion. There have been several volunteers from the community who have stepped up to help.”
Residents in the area stopped by throughout the day to check on the progress of the bog. One couple said the lake has had numerous bogs floating around Merrifield Bay in the past, but never any as big as the one sitting on Legionville’s beach at that moment.
Tom Hagen, who lives off Legionville Road, said when he first heard about the size of the bog on Merrifield Bay, he couldn’t believe it. Hagen said he checked out the bog last October and again Wednesday.
“It was mind-boggling then and it still is mind-boggling,” Hagen said. “I heard they were looking for volunteers. I think everyone knew something was going to happen with it, but didn’t expect anything this drastic. We will see what happens.
“I think it sat too long. ... I’m in shock that it is taking this long (to get it to move).”
Executive Director/State Adjutant Randy Tesdahl of the Minnesota American Legion, who helped organize the bog move, said they made lemonade out of lemons Wednesday. He said the bog may not have moved much, but eventually it will be gone and back where it came from on North Long Lake so youths who stay at the camp will have the opportunity to use the water.
Tesdahl said from an ecological standpoint the bog is fine where it is located in front of Legionville. He said it is the DNR’s job is to make sure the waterways are safe and protected. However, he said the DNR has worked with the American Legion to move the bog naturally so they can have their beach back for the kids.
Tesdahl said when the bog made its home in front of the camp last fall they called bog removal companies to see how much it would cost to move it, with prices ranging from $60,000 to $100,000. He said the American Legion, the lake association and the DNR do not have the income to remove the bog, so they knew they needed to do it on their own.
“We’ve been blessed to work together with all these people,” he said. “This really turned into a community event. … All (the volunteers) have been a very huge part of the positive side of this. As we know there was a lot of grumbling last fall about this and we were able to turn this around.”
The Legionville camp was established by the Minnesota American Legion for the purpose of training young people in correct school patrol procedures. School safety and bus patrol training is the primary focus of the camp, however other classes campers attend are first aid, watercraft safety and swim safety, Legionville’s website states.