by ADAM GRUENEWALD
Carrie and Brian Pauly and their kids certainly know the benefits of all Baylor Regional Park has to offer.
As the family hosting and in charge of the campground, the park makes up their backyard to the joy of their children.
Sam, 8, Julia, 6, and even Elsa, 2, are able to enjoy their immediate backyard, take in all the fun of the 201-acre park, whether hunting for frogs or bugs or helping with some of the programs.
“Even after all these years we catch things that we don’t know what they are,” said Carrie.
The Pauly family first moved to the park in May 2008, having lived in the area for seven years prior after getting married.
Brian, a Chaska native, knew the area well, and Carrie, originally from Cambridge, Wis., was eager for the chance when they heard about the availability of the caretaker position.
“It just so happened we had just sold our house and were looking for opportunities,” she said.
As caretakers of the campground, Brian and Carrie are self-described “eyes and ears of the park” as they are there year-round, 24 hours a day answering phone calls and welcoming visitors and assisting campers during the busy May to October camping season with about a dozen co-workers, including gate staff, camp hosts, maintenance and park staff.
“It’s a team effort,” said Carrie. “We don’t do it all ourselves. There’s a maintenance staff that does all of the mowing and maintenance. We do a lot of sharing of responsibilities.”
When winter slows down somewhat, they still handle the renting of cross country skis and the organization of other visits.
“We pretty much run the show as far as visitor contacts go,” said Brian.
The intensive time demand makes the Paulys flexible with their regular lives and meals, able to be interrupted at any time.
“We could plan dinner anywhere between 4 and 6 (p.m.), and you can pretty much guarantee the phone is going to ring regardless of when you eat dinner,” said Carrie.
The challenges and demands are understood though, and seemingly outweighed by the benefits of the park.
“We always have been an active family,” said Carrie. “The opportunities we have here with the trails and the ponds, we wouldn’t have had that anywhere else.”
While they do have a lot of space, the kids don’t wander too much on their own for safety reasons, but are able to check out nearby animals and keep an extensive log of the animals they see in the park.
“It makes them more well-rounded as they have to be patient,” said Carrie of her kids. “They are our priority but we still do our job.”
They also camp in the immediate backyard, something both Brian and Carrie did when they were kids.
Both Carrie and Brian are well experienced in parks, as Brian has a parks and recreation degree from the University of Minnesota and worked at Isle Royale National Park and Voyagers National Park, where he met Carrie, an aspiring photographer who was an intern there. Carrie estimates she still takes 20,000 pictures a year.
“We went camping a lot,” he said, adding his parents, Gene and Rena, still enjoy the outdoors, having just returned from the Boundary Waters. Gene walks an average of 30 miles a week, searching mushrooms, picking berries and hunting. “My dad is an outdoorsman. He will pack up his tent and go on the Minnesota River.”
Carrie and Brian are impressing the importance upon their kids as well, and their vacations take the family outdoors, too.
“It’s what we do,” said Carrie. “We’re outside. As long as the bugs aren’t too bad, we’re outside as much as we can.”
The same group of five families that Brian would go camping with as a kid now join the Pauly family on their annual trip, as many as 14, to a new Minnesota State Park each year.
“The kids that he grew up, he was their age when they started camping,” said Carrie. “Now the next generation is camping together, so it’s pretty fun to see our kids growing up and doing the same thing.”
Morning Mischief, held Saturday morning, is the pet project for the family and they organize it to encourage outdoor education.
Weather has provided constant adventures for the family as well, starting with the 50 mph winds that impacted a wedding party the first summer the Pauly family spent in the campground.
“That was memorable,” said Brian. “It was kind of fun. My parents were here and there was a tornado warning.”
Another highlight was the birth of Elsa two summers ago which occurred during a stormy night when the power was out.
“We needed to leave for the hospital and the people that we called to come watch our children were the camp hosts,” said Carrie. “They’ve basically become like grandparents to our kids… Being able to call on coworkers to watch your kids doesn’t always happen.”
The biggest challenge for the family remains the constant interactions with visitors, which is outweighed by the benefits of the park and the enjoyment they get from meeting people and helping them.
“Even when were not on duty, we live here,” said Carrie. “We see everything that happens. This is our view which is wonderful, but we see the bad stuff too.”
For more information about events at Baylor Park, visit http://www.co.carver.mn.us/parks.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at email@example.com.