MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Storm cleanup continues in northern Minnesota’s Brainerd Lakes area during the height of vacation season.

Some of the state’s most popular resorts and campgrounds have shut down, causing many vacationers to make new plans.

The Pillsbury State Forest is closed because of downed trees, along with several popular resorts. Those include Cragun’s and Madden’s on Gull Lake.

Confidence Learning Center, or Camp Confidence, was especially hit hard. It is a place where people with autism and other disabilities come to experience and learn about the outdoors.

The power is still out at the camp, which will be closed for at least a week. Sunday night’s storms tore through the 140 acres, knocking down power lines and damaging nearly 500 trees. There were no overnight guests Sunday night during the storm.

It is the first time in the camp’s 40-year history that storm damage has forced its closure. Tree debris has blocked trails, punched holes in rooftops and knocked down fences.

“We just had a youth group one month ago from Merrill, Wisconsin spend an entire week here installing brand-new fence so that we could have deer and other animals roam free really throughout the two acres,” Confidence Learning Center’s Bob Slaybaugh said.

The beach’s boat lift is upside down, and the dock is broken into pieces – and it is not a quick fix.

“It’s not just as quick as clipping them all back together. We have to check each joint and make sure they’re sturdy enough to handle 600 pounds with a chair and a person in that chair,” Slaybaugh said.

With so many trees cut down or knocked down on the property, it has been tough to see just how much damage has been done. And it has been even tougher to tell families that have had reservations for months that they cannot come this week.

The staff is touched by the many volunteers who have shown up to help.

“You know, the energy of all the camp staff, the volunteers that we will have coming in, they’re all here for one purpose, that’s our campers, and our goal is to get us up and running as fast as possible,” Slaybaugh said.

They have a lot of volunteers set to come and help with the cleanup, but what the camp badly needs is money for repairs.

Click here for information on how to help.

Strong winds at Madden’s

Strong winds ripped the roof off of one the buildings at Madden’s on Gull Lake. With so much damage, the resort is temporarily closed.

“We were planning a family event, and we had several family members flying in from out of town,” said Mike Madden.

Mike shares a last name with Madden’s, but he isn’t related to anyone at the resort. He lives in the cities and had more than a dozen family members coming in from out of town next week to spend a few days at the resort. Their reservations for dinner, golf and pontoons have all been cancelled. Mike is just thankful they weren’t there when the storm hit.

“If it had been the next week on a Sunday night, we would have been there and had to go through that unpleasant experience,” Madden said.

Madden said that Madden’s has been very professional and called him the day after the storm to let him know they wouldn’t be open during his reservation.

A spokesperson at Madden’s said that contractors and clean-up crews have been working hard all day, and they could be open by July 28.

The resort can have up to 700 guests on any given night.

John Lauritsen

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