North Dakota Flood Victims Find Homes at RV Park

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August 1, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

When Jeff and Betsy Gerhart opened Sakakawea RV Sales, Service and Park in Garrison, N.D., just over a year ago, they had some anxious concerns about their campground area.

Today those concerns have disappeared. The campground is filled and planning is under way for expansion, the Minot Daily News reported.

"There were a few sleepless nights. More than a few were questioning if this would work or if there was a need for it here," said Jeff Gerhart. "It's very gratifying to be able to help people who need this."

People in need of a place to call home, where they could park a camper or RV, included several displaced by recent flooding. One of those is Jon Thorson of Minot. While his wife and children are staying with relatives in South Dakota, Thorson opted to remain closer to his flooded Minot home.

"This has worked out better for me than I expected," said Thorson. "I like Garrison. The people down here are friendly and they care about what happened in Minot."

Thorson said he got the really important items out of his home, but not everything.

"I lost two motorcycles. I got my wife's stuff out and got all my son's toys out. As for my stuff, I ran out of time," said Thorson.

Others in the RV park have similar stories. According to Gerhart, he didn't have to turn anybody away that had evacuated from Minot and was seeking a place to park their camper or motorhome.

"I'll still be able to bring on some more if the need is there," said Gerhart. "I'm still getting calls every day. This is not a recreational-type of campground. It's a pretty relaxed atmosphere."

The Gerhart's RV Sales, Service and Park, along with other new businesses along Highway 37 that leads from U.S. Highway 83 to Garrison, has added immensely to the community's appearance. Visitors traveling the roadway now see thriving activity where a few months ago was open field.

"The location, I think, is about as good as it gets," said Gerhart. "I was approached about bringing some sort of recreational business. The city is built around recreation. It only made sense if we could help accommodate the needs that come with that."

Thorson says he's grateful for a place to stay, especially since Garrison has proven very friendly and his Minot home is in ruins.

"I don't know if we can rebuild. We're not getting any answers from the city," said Thorson. "Maybe I'll buy a place down here."

Other residents of Sakakawea RV Park includes workers who have come to the area to assist in cleanup and rebuilding in Minot. Some staying at the park are working in the oil fields.

"This was built more for long-term visitors," explained Gerhart. "Restoration companies are here now. There was need for long-term that wasn't here before. We are actually equipped with thermal hydrants at each site so there is water and sewer year round without freeze-up."

Gerhart said he was grateful for the support and efforts of the Garrison Improvement Association that made his business a reality.

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