4/19/2019 11:48:00 AM Cass County Board: 2019 promises to be a busy year at Camp Ripley
MONICA LUNDQUIST Cass County Correspondent
BACKUS-Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shane Haugen presented to Cass County commissioners Tuesday, April 16, the 2019 Camp Ripley annual update on the Army National Guard facility's activities.
Camp Ripley not only trains Army National Guard members for routine and deployment activities, but also serves as a training site for the Air Force Guard and Reserve flight and ground training programs.
Its mixed wooded and open space areas, plus its buildings also host the training academies for Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Minnesota State Patrol. The state's Homeland Security and Emergency Management department has an office there and conducts multi-agency training. Minnesota Department of Transportation hosts its annual large equipment driver education at Ripley.
The camp partners with Minnesota DNR and Board of Soil and Water Resources, Central Lakes College, St. Cloud State University, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, local school districts and community interest groups to manage its acreage along the Mississippi River between Brainerd and Little Falls. That management is for wildlife, fisheries, forestry, protected species, cultural resources, pest management, wetlands, noise, wildland fire, outreach and recreation, land rehabilitation and geographic information systems.
Command Sgt. Maj. Matt Erickson, who also spoke at the meeting, said there is expected land damage from the military response training, which Ripley troops repair and re-seed with native grass seeds collected on site. These efforts won Camp Ripley a 2018 Army Cultural Resources Award in 2018 and Department of Defense and Army and ARNG Natural Resource Conservation Awards in 2017. The cultural resources award especially recognized Ripley's work to identify Indian burial mounds along the Mississippi River, Haugen said. Its green energy initiative aims to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020.
Camp Ripley now has 24-hour-per-day firefighting service with the recent completion of a new fire department building, Haugen said. Camp Ripley recently began its annual spring prescribed burns to prevent wildfires later in the season. The camp's public works department and environmental team assist its fire department in these burns.
With the help of $42,430,577 in federal funding and $11,923,000 from the state, Camp Ripley has purchased conservation easements from landowners in a 3 mile buffer zone around the camp. Landowners retain ownership of their properties, but agree not to develop their properties under these easements. They occupy their land and continue to pay property taxes.
So far, over 26,000 acres have been placed into easement, Haugen reported. Another 200-plus landowners have expressed interest in joining the program, he said.
The primary military training program will run from May through October this year, with the louder artillery firing scheduled in May through July. Aviation maneuvers will be conducted August through October.
Camp Ripley will host an open house for the public 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 15 this year. Anyone can attend. The camp also provides field tours, participates in area festivals, has a job shadow program, offers game hunts for disabled veterans, offers a Trolling for the Troops fishing event, has a biathlon and celebrates with special programs National Public Lands Day, Earth Day, Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
In 2018, the camp collected 3,000 pounds of food, which was donated to the Pierz Food Shelf.
In fiscal year 2018, Ripley spent $132,884,322 directly on personnel, building construction, operations and conservation easements. That translated to an overall economic effect on the area of $286,910,539, Haugen reported.
Second publication rights after Brainerd Dispatch.