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Setting Up Camp

The pond in the Bagley Nature Area
June 16, 2016

UMD's new campground

The new campground at Bagley Nature Area opened this summer.

The new campground at Bagley Nature Area opened this summer.

For generations of Bulldogs, Bagley Nature Area has offered a reprieve of the zippy variety– a zip around Rock Pond or a zip through the trails and back in time for class.

Now, for the first time in its 65-year history, that offer is being extended with the opening of a campground on the eastern side of the nature area.

Why now? Thousands of visitors put their hiking boots down and made it so. And when they did, senior Ben Severson got an answer to "What did you do this summer?" that's rocking his resume.

Take a Hike

The Superior Hiking Trail is a 310-mile marvel in connectivity. It starts west of Duluth and hugs the lake's ridgeline through Bagley and all the way to Canada. It was forged 30 years ago when the Department of Natural Resources, Lake County, and the Forest Service collaborated with resort owners in a shared vision.

Campgrounds are scattered along the route, but were pretty scarce from Duluth to Two Harbors. Hikers had to haul their gear for nearly 40 miles between sites. Tim Bates, associate director of UMD's Recreational Sports Outdoor Program (RSOP), recognized this blister-inducing omission and got to work offering some relief.

Experience Required

Those who haven't established a campground might think it's as easy as finding a flat space and putting up a "campers welcome" sign. Not so.

Work began four years ago when a house on the adjoining property was torn down and opened up the space. Waterlines were added and the proper permits were completed. RSOP was ready to unveil its campground, but a leader was needed. Preferred requirements- someone who lives by the motto, "be prepared." Enter Ben Severson.

The education major grew up as a boy scout in Ramsey, Minn. He even worked at a scout camp for many years.

With plans to teach secondary science, Ben immediately read between the lines of the Bagley naturalist job description and applied. "I’m working on developing more nature-based knowledge that I can bring into the classroom,” he says. “Plus, any teaching experience that I can get will help me after I graduate.”

Ben's boss, Tim, says this student leadership opportunity is one of the ways the six-spot campground is offering enrichment. The other is to its patrons.

The nearby Bagley classroom offers space for programing.

The nearby Bagley classroom offers space for programing.

At the Gateway

While the Superior Hiking Trail was the catalyst, the new Bagley campground has an additional target market: newbies.

"Part of my job description is to work out the camping bugs so that people have a positive experience," says Ben. He's a security blanket of sorts, ready to step in if someone's baffled by the pole/canvas/tarp conundrum that sometimes comes with camping. "Camping can be a bit much for some people, so every little bit that I can help will make them appreciate getting outdoors more."

RSOP is offering gear packages that pair nicely with their very affordable $25 per night fee. Tim says the idea is to give inexperienced campers an opportunity to try sleeping in the great outdoors without the huge commitment that’s normally required.

Ben believes that by alleviating the overhead, the outdoors can unleash unprecedented confidence, something he's noticed guiding canoeing on Rock Pond the past two years. “I see people leave more energized when they came because they did something that they couldn’t do before. That’s a big morale builder.”


Open House

The public will have an opportunity to tour the Bagley campground and experience the programs during an open house on Saturday, July 2, 2016 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Open canoeing on Bagley Pond, a fire for roasting marshmallows, nature hikes, and nature programs will be offered throughout the day. This is a free event.

More information on the Bagley Campground