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Campers bracing for a cold N.D. winter

Posted 9/30/09 (Wed)

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

Camping is a fun pastime in North Dakota and something that many families do on weekends during the summer. But it’s not something most North Dakotans would think of as a fun thing to do in the winter. But, for some newcomers to Watford City that’s exactly what they’re headed for, camping in a North Dakota winter.
Most North Dakotans haven’t been affected by the economy’s downturn, which is what makes this state an attractive place to move to, even if housing isn’t available.
“Cherry Creek RV Park is having a banner year,” says Doug Bolken. “We have people living here because they can’t find a house and we have others living here because their work here is just temporary.”
Three Way Inc. has a few employees living in campers who are looking for permanent homes and around 70 temporary employees living in campers and motel rooms while they work on a pipeline project that isn’t scheduled to be finished until spring.
“Everyone in the park right now is here for at least a month,” says Bolken. “We have 33 spots inside the park, three temporary spots outside and eight skid shack spots. We will lose some campers when Northern Improvement finishes its project on Highway 23 and the rest think they will be here through the winter.”
Darcy and Julie Johnson along with their two children, Joran, 11, and Reese, 8, know all too well what it’s like to live in a camper. The family moved to Watford City from Tucsan Ariz. on Aug. 23 and they still haven’t found a house.
“My husband and I are both from North Dakota originally and we decided to move the family back here for a better life. We didn’t want our daughter starting middle school in Tucson so we needed to move before school started,” says Julie. “Our plan was to sell the house or for Darcy to have a job here.”
Although the Johnsons hadn’t sold their house, Darcy found a job with Triple A Safety so the family prepared for the move to a new house. Except there was no house to move into.
“We bought a camper thinking it would be the best way to move all of our stuff except the big furniture,” adds Julie. “Then we realized we would have to live in it until we found a place. But I never thought we would be facing winter in the camper.”
On an average year, Bolken says they can expect maybe seven people through the winter and this year he already knows of six for sure, and he expects to have 10 to 15.
“It wasn’t that long ago that campgrounds all but shut down in the winter,” says Bolken. “Now it’s nothing to have a handful of campers here every winter.”
The Johnsons are one family at Cherry Creek RV Park that hopes to have more permanent housing before the snow flies.
“We don’t know what we’ll do if we have to stay here for the winter,” says Julie. “Right now we have our fingers crossed that we can get into the LSS Housing until we can find a permanent home. It would have been much easier if we had sold our house in Tucson because we would have had a nice chunk of change for a purchase and we wouldn’t be paying $1,800 a month for a house payment while we live in a camper.”
The Johnsons aren’t alone in their worries over winter. Neighbors all around them are beginning to winterize their campers with hopes of an easy winter. But for many of them going home would mean going back to no job. So for them, camping through a North Dakota winter might not be so bad.