4/19/2017 9:35:00 AM Camp Ripley gearing up for busy summer
MONICA LUNDQUIST Cass County Correspondent
BACKUS-Lt. Col. Chad Sackett, Camp Ripley deputy garrison commander, gave his annual report Tuesday to Cass County commissioners on activities at Camp Ripley, which covers 53,000 acres from Pillager to just north of Little Falls.
The camp will host its community appreciation day this year from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 17. Anyone can attend. Korean War veterans will be given special honor at a 1 p.m. tribute ceremony this year.
The heaviest military training takes place at Ripley from May to October. Units from as far east as Michigan and Ohio, as far west as the Dakotas and as far south as Missouri train at Ripley.
There will be close to 20,000 military personnel training at Ripley this June, the peak month for 2017.
Civilian users of the camp's facilities include Minnesota state and local law enforcement agencies, the civil air patrol, the American Red Cross and Minnesota Departments of Transportation, Corrections and Fire Marshal.
Ripley also serves as a wildlife management area, with 20 full time environmentalists on staff. Disabled veteran hunts are held on camp property. Ripley burns 15,000 acres annually for habitat management.
Several years ago, Ripley declared a 3-mile band around the camp as a compatible use buffer zone. The concept was to discourage development close to the perimeter and to minimize conflicts with neighbors.
State and county managed land already in that zone was pledged to the buffer concept. Minnesota DNR has purchased some additional land within the buffer zone for wildlife management.
The main effort was to encourage private property owners within the buffer to sign agreements to participate and prevent development on their land. It is the same concept as conservation easements along lake and river shorelines.
State and federal grants are paying landowners to enter into these agreements.
In 2016, 39 more property owners brought 3,457 more acres into the buffer zone easement program. The goal is to keep future land use in the buffer at the same balance of forest and agriculture as was the case when the program began, Sackett said.
Camp Ripley was given federal recognition as a "Sentinel Landscape" in July 2016, recognizing that the camp had combined protection with practices. This designation will leverage additional funds for buffer easement purchases.
Sept. 7, 2016, Ripley lost four buildings when a tornado blew across the camp. It will cost $29.55 million to replace them. Repair for lesser damage on other camp buildings is estimated to cost $5.5 million, Sackett reported.
Sixty-two buildings sustained at least minor damage, he reported.
Second publication rights after Brainerd Dispatch.