RV Parks Help North Dakota Housing Shortage
With an investment in propane and a bit of skirting to keep the heat under the trailer, a recreational camper can make a fine winter home.
At least it’s suiting some folks in northwestern North Dakota, where tight housing from a booming oil industry has led a number of people to consider camping out over winter, according to the Minot Daily News.
“They are hardy people,” said Alice Olson, who operates White Buffalo RV Park and Campgrounds at Watford City. “It’s the tough people still here.”
Some of those “tough” ones are southerners from places like Florida and New Mexico, who are proving they can handle the North Dakota cold.
“They are kind of taking it as a challenge,” Olson said.
Kathy Mita, manager of Sand Creek Estates at Tioga, said there are a number of people camping the winter in Tioga, although the cold in early January thinned the ranks a little. Sand Creek Estates has had two campers abandon ship and get homes and another declared during the January frigid spell that this is his last year.
“A guy just called me today. He’s had enough of it,” Mita said Jan. 8 when the temperature was 25 below.
Mita said some campers are better suited for North Dakota winters than others, and how they are maintained and skirted is important in how well they come through cold weather. Bales, plastic or vinyl skirting and refrigeration foamboard all have been used as insulating material.
Mita said camping can be economical when the campers are fully paid for, which motivates many of the people who choose to spend the winter in their RVs.
Campground dwellers commonly are oil, pipeline or construction workers from places like Texas, Illinois, Arkansas, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Alaska and Canada. Those from closer states frequently go back to visit.
“They moved here for the jobs,” Mita said. “They almost all of them have permanent homes and very nice homes back where their family is.”
Most live alone in their campers, but there are some couples and an occasional family. In Tioga, a couple with several children recently bought a home after camping for 2 1/2 years, said Danny Hoium, Tioga Park Board president.
This year, the Tioga City Park has had four over-winter RVs. The park doesn’t provide water hook-ups but it does offer a shower building.
Olson, who typically goes south for the winter, stayed this year because of the over-wintering campers. Some of the campers hadn’t planned on spending the winter, either, but their jobs with pipeline construction went past the time they thought it would be completed.
“I am, as a park owner, doing all I can to make them comfortable,” she said, adding that more temporary housing provided by oil companies is needed for these small communities.
Ray Morken, manager of BBR RV at Watford City, said the park has several campers this winter. Although residents stay warm with electric or gas heaters, it can be difficult to keep things from freezing up during the extreme cold, he said.
Broken water meters have been a problem for campers at Sand Creek Estates. During a cold spell in December, there were 25 water-line freeze-ups and no available plumber to be had anywhere.
“We did it ourselves,” Mita said of the repairs.
Brendles Bay Resort near Parshall installed a new system this year that heats everything from the well to the hydrants so there’s no chance of anything freezing up. This is the second winter, the resort has had wintering campers.
Brendles Bay offers water, sewer and electricity on 46 lots and all are full with campers or skid trailers brought in by oil companies for their workers. Five winterized cabins all are rented.
Another three tenants are living in mobile homes in another section that doesn’t have water. This is their last year for hauling water, though. Resort owner Harley Rath said Brendle’s Bay will build more water lines this summer to serve another 39 lots.
Also this summer, a duplex project will be built to provide permanent housing. Meanwhile, mail carrier and school bus services encourage the year-round activity at Brendle’s Bay.
“It’s getting to become its own little town in itself,” Rath said.