GILBERT LAKE, Minn. — Mary Claire Ryan knows a floating bog when she sees one — and this one had the potential to cause trouble for Gilbert Lake property owners.
A floating bog is a natural wetland consisting of marsh, dead plant materials and cattails, and the Gilbert Lake bog kept lakefront homeowners and boaters busy last week with its removal. Volunteers had staked parts of the bog down in April to keep them stationary.
“You move them, push them with boats and then you run 2-by-8 wood stakes through the bog into the bottom of the lake, and hopefully they’ll hold and start rooting and stay put,” Ryan said Sunday, June 9.
Gilbert Lake runs along the west side of Riverside Drive, on the north side of Brainerd. Area residents were greeted in April with a 50-yard-wide bog floating in the channel between a smaller bay and the main portion of the lake, which includes about 7 miles of shoreline.
“This past week, one of the big chunks of the bog decided that it wasn’t going to stay put, came back into the channel, got out to the big part of the lake, got pushed into a corner — hoping to keep it there — and then it blew out of there, so we pushed it over to the landing,” Ryan said.
The 67-year-old Brainerd woman has lived on the lake for more than 30 years. The lake consists of three portions — a small bay to the west known as “Gilbert 3,” the lake’s main portion known as “Gilbert 2” and a narrow, long portion south of Gilbert 2 known as “Gilbert 1.”
“We got permission from Crow Wing County to actually get a backhoe or excavator-type machine in there and put all of the bog up onto the landing to let it drain and then we were going to figure from there where we were going to move it,” Ryan said.
A 200-by-800-foot bog weighing in at about 8 million pounds plagued Merrifield Bay on North Long Lake in the fall of 2017. The bog damaged properties before landing on the Legionville School Safety Patrol Training Center’s swimming beach, where it sat into the spring of 2018.
“I’ve been involved with the Gilbert Lake Association for pretty much as long as it has existed, as well as a lot of other people,” said Ryan, who is also co-head coach of the Brainerd Nordic Ski Team. “It took a great team effort by a lot of neighbors with pontoons and other boats to keep maneuvering this thing around, so it wouldn’t wipe out docks and shore stations. … It’s taken two days and umpteenth truck loads (on Friday) to get it loaded up and hauled out of here.”
Northland Arboretum officials agreed to allow loads of the bog to be dumped in the composting pile of the nonprofit located on land leased from Crow Wing County behind the Westgate Mall.
“They were gracious enough to say that it would work for them,” Ryan said.
Gilbert Lake Association President Todd Froemming and volunteers moved three bogs out of the channel running between the main portion of Gilbert Lake and a smaller bay on April 27.
“We had our annual lake association meeting on Tuesday night … and then the bog came out of the channel Wednesday morning … so we pushed it into a south bay and it got out on Thursday … but we were able to push it to the landing,” Ryan said.
Mike Johnson of Johnson Sewer & Excavating in Aitkin provided the excavator used to remove chunks of the Gilbert Lake bog, and Rod Enberg of Enberg Logging in Motley provided dump trucks. They were friends of Gilbert Lake property owners.
“They volunteered their equipment, which was awesome … and extremely gracious of them because we could have been looking at quite a healthy bill if they weren’t so generous,” Ryan said. “And one of our lake association member’s has the license to run that equipment.”
Volunteers with the North Long Lake Association, the Minnesota DNR and the Minnesota American Legion moved that lake’s floating bog off the beach after weeks of hard work. “Between the bogs on North Long and Gilbert and the high water, it’s been kind of an interesting spring and interesting stories that people comment on all the time,” Ryan said.