MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On a paved lot in north Minneapolis, each blow of a hammer gets a building one step closer to the forest. Soon plywood, fir studs and cedar shakes will give rise to another Department of Natural Resources camper cabin.

Gary Courtney, a carpentry training manager for Summit Academy, says that those making the cabins are getting skills to help them build their future.

“They’re getting skills that will be marketable for them as they move on to complete their training,” he said.

Summit Academy is part of a unique partnership that’s pairing academy students with the DNR’s state parks. The students are building 12-foot-by-20-foot cedar-sided cabins that will eventually be moved to the Forestville Mystery Cave State Park, south of Rochester.

More than a job site, the rear lot of Summit Academy is a classroom. It’s where folks like Bridget Lee — one of many students learning carpentry and construction techniques in a 20-week course — turn their desire into skill.

“I like working with my hands and…building up something,” Lee said. “I’ve done some things with my dad, but I never knew how to put up a building.”

Louis King, the academy’s president and CEO, calls the partnership a win-win-win for Hennepin County, the state and his students.

“We saw the opportunity to bring the DNR, of all things, to north Minneapolis, and the cabins you see behind me represent this partnership,” King said.

In just a few weeks, the latest of the four cabins will be completed and trucked to the campground. Campers will likely be impressed by the craftsmanship built into each one. But less apparent is that each cabin is actually opening new doors for the carpenters who built them.

Student Rick Batsell says the academy is helping him reach his goals.

“My goal and vision is to one day own my own construction company,” he said. “After I’m done at Summit, I’m going to go get my general contractors license.”


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