The monster bog of the Brainerd Lakes Area has just claimed 600 victims.
That's how many Minnesota schoolchildren will miss out on summer programs after the American Legion this week canceled this year's safety training camps at Legionville, Minn., saying the bog was a hazard to young campers.
The cancellations were a setback for all the volunteers armed with chain saws, bulldozers and steel cables who have spent three weeks hacking away at the 4,000-ton bog that grounded on Legionville's beach on North Long Lake near Brainerd last fall. Officials said Friday that not enough progress has been made to ensure the campers' safety.
"It's unfortunate, but it is what it is," Legionville President Wayne Gilbertson said. "We've got to look at the safety of the kids."
The concern, Gilbertson said, is that adventurous campers could walk out onto the bog and fall through, trapping them underwater. This would have been the 80th summer of school safety guard programs operated by the American Legion, which has held the camps at Legionville since the mid-1950s. The only other cancellations were during World War II, Gilbertson said.
Breakaway bogs are common on Minnesota lakes, but few people have ever seen one this big. The floating mat of muck, bulrushes and tamarack trees broke loose last October, on Friday the 13th, and rampaged around North Long Lake for a week, destroying or damaging several docks and boat lifts before settling on the Legionville beach.
The bog now completely blocks the beach where campers take swimming, boating and canoe safety lessons.
Workers first tried to move the bog last month using sturdy ropes attached to a flotilla of powerful boats, but the bog wouldn't budge. They then went to Plan B: cutting the bog into smaller pieces that could be floated farther down the shore and anchored.
But with 4 acres of bog to slice and dice, things aren't moving fast enough.
"The weight of the bog is what's been very detrimental," Gilbertson said. "You're looking at roughly 4,000 tons. That's a lot of weight to move."
But Gilbertson added that he's confident they can move it, and that life at Legionville will return to normal next year.
"We'll be all set up and ready to rock 'n' roll," he said.