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'We did it! '- Volunteers finally move troublesome bog on North Long Lake

A bevy of boats maneuvers a piece of bog away from the Legionville School Safety Patrol Training Center beach Sunday, June 10, on North Long Lake. Kelly Humphrey / Forum News Service1 / 8
Volunteers in boats maneuver a piece of bog away from the Legionville School Safety Patrol Training Center beach Sunday, June 10, on North Long Lake. Kelly Humphrey / Forum News Service2 / 8
Doug Kaut (left) and Len Olson, along with other volunteers, help push pieces of a giant bog away from the Legionville School Safety Patrol Training Center beach Sunday, June 10, on North Long Lake. Kelly Humphrey / Forum News Service3 / 8
Pontoons help push a piece of bog to a new location away from the Legionville School Safety Patrol Training Center beach Sunday, June 10, on North Long Lake. Kelly Humphrey / Forum News Service4 / 8
A bevy of boats maneuvers a piece of bog away from the Legionville School Safety Patrol Training Center beach Sunday, June 10, on North Long Lake. Kelly Humphrey / Forum News Service5 / 8
A loader with a log gets into place to help push a piece of bog away from the Legionville School Safety Patrol Training Center beach Sunday, June 10, on North Long Lake. Kelly Humphrey / Forum News Service6 / 8
Kevin Martini of the DNR works to get a strap untangled from the bog during the moving process Sunday, June 10, on North Long Lake. Kelly Humphrey / Forum News Service7 / 8
North Long Lake Association President Bill Schmidt (left) smiles as Kevin Martini (right) from the DNR hugs Randy Tesdahl, executive director of the Minnesota American Legion, Sunday, June 10, after they and volunteers successfully moved three large sections of a giant bog away from the Legionville School Safety Patrol Training Center beach on North Long Lake. Kelly Humphrey / Forum News Service8 / 8

LEGIONVILLE, Minn.—Volunteer crews finally won the weeks-long battle with the bog Sunday, June 10, the culmination of hundreds of man-hours spent in hot, humid conditions, wielding chainsaws and powering boats to dismember it.

"When the last piece went, all the volunteers yelled 'Hey! We did it!'" said Bill Schmidt, the president of North Long Lake Association. "That really tells you about it."

In the end, it took the power of 24 small boats and pontoons, plus the aid of a Bob Cat to overcome "The Beast," as its been dubbed by Schmidt—the work of 25-30 volunteers, to say nothing of the contributions of Rosie-Ann the labradoodle.

After crews separated the bog, they towed and pushed the individual pieces a few hundred yards down shore. To move the floating bog, a pack of small watercraft crashed into the bog over and over again like ancient war ships—aluminum noses beached on the bog, engines churning furiously in the water—then ferried it along like tug boats escorting tiny continents. All in all, the process took about 4 1/2 hours after starting at 10 a.m.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reported the bog was about 255,000 square feet in diameter and estimated to weigh 4,000 tons, or 8 million pounds. The bog is a natural wetland consisting of marsh, dead plant materials, cattails and this one features a line of tamarack trees.

Bogs are formations attached to land—the result of sediment build up and plant growth that occurs where water and ground meet and coalesce in nutrient-rich shallows. The North Long Lake bog became detached in August 2017, Schmidt said, when heavy rainfall fed into to a creek that then fed into the lake. The heavy influx of water, coupled with strong winds, lifted the bog from its roots and out into open water.

In the days that followed, 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, just a few hundred yards from its place of origin.

"If we had a pattern to follow, it would have been a lot easier. This is the first time anyone's tried to move a bog this big," said Schmidt, who noted the closest example they could find in their research was a bog removed in Wisconsin that sat about a third the size of North Long Lake's nuisance. "If you brought in huge, big equipment it would have made it a whole lot easier. (We) decided to make it a community project, move it piece by piece, and that's what we did today."

As a result, the bog removal was a slow, arduous process of trial and error—initially a push to shift the entire mass in one go, then subsequent efforts to break it down into increasingly smaller, more manageable pieces with tow-cables and chainsaws; constant readjustments dictated by the sheer size of the bog, its composition and problematic weather.

The bog removal has been in the works for months, said Randy Tesdahl, the state adjunct/executive director of the Minnesota American Legion—efforts going back to when he first started laying down plywood in November, though the project began in earnest about a month ago. Volunteers went out every weekend to remove the bog, and every weekend they returned with little success—until efforts finally came to fruition Sunday.

It may have seemed the less effective—and efficient route—Tesdahl noted, but by leaning on neighbors and local organizations, the project's price tag was significantly smaller than it's projected cost when the possibility of hiring outside help was explored.

"This is all volunteer, this is a community effort—the community, the lake's association, the (Minnesota) DNR, American Legion—just general people on the lake, coming over in their boats and saying 'How can we help?'" Tesdahl said. "So, a $100,000 to $600,000 project we were able to do with volunteers.

"Community, community, community—it's a partnership," he added. "There were people who said 'You're not going to get that moved." All the companies with their big equipment said 'Oh, we'll do it, we'll do it. It will take us a few weeks, but we'll do it.' We were able to do it with the mindset: 'Let's come together.'"

Summer camp still bogged down

The Legionville School Safety Patrol Training Center was established by the Minnesota American Legion for the purpose of training Minnesota young people in correct school patrol procedures.

School safety and bus patrol training are the primary focuses of the camp, however other classes campers attend are first aid, watercraft and swim safety, according to Legionville's website. Previously, summer campers had been turned away amid safety concerns on account of the bog and—about 700 children swim at the beach each summer.

Now, the beach can be reopened—though, Tesdahl said, it will remain closed for the rest of the summer with the bog and a few lingering safety hazards still present a few hundred yards down the shore.

"Kids are kids and the fear is that kids are going to explore," said Tesdahl, who noted this gives camp administrators an opportunity to cleanup and improve the beach in the meantime. "They're here for a full week and if you've been to camp—a lot of us have—you sneak out at night, you go play, you go do things you shouldn't do at night as a kid, as a teenager. The last thing you need is a kid going out on the bog and falling through it."

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