Greetings from Elkhorn Creek Ranch near the epicenter of the Bakken Oil Formation. The picture below was taken near the Buffalo Gap Ranch in 2007 with NDSU friends from near and far.
This past week has been an incredibly interesting week and much different from a 'normal' week on the ranch (which is an oxymoronic comment if I've ever used one). Western North Dakota used to have one, no actually two claims to fame. The first was our extreme weather with some of the coldest cold in the winter and some of the hottest hot in the summer. The second, the Medora Musical and the TRNP - Teddy Roosevelt National Park (north and south units) in the foothills of the beautiful bad lands.
Our ranch is located 15 miles (as the Little Missouri River flows) east of the north unit of the TRNP in McKenzie County.
By land mass, it is the largest county in the state and one of the largest in the nation competing with a couple large west Texas counties and Cherry County in the sand hills of north central Nebraska. Watford City is the county seat and prior to 2008, the stats roughed out to something like this in the area:
· 1,800 residents in Watford City (that number grew substantially when family members came home for Thanksgiving and Christmas)
· 5,500 residents in McKenzie County (of the human variety)
· 65,000 mother cows.
Today, there are 'guestimations' that there are around 7,000 people in the 'greater Watford City area' (I love saying that) and the county population is unknown and certainly debatable.
Prior to 2008, the community was constantly doing all it could to attract new businesses. It was a quiet little place and there was often worry and concern about the future of main street businesses. Today it is quite the opposite. Businesses are here and they are BUSY. There are new ones coming to the area every day.
The ranch has had the opportunity this week to host a guest that we hope will become a member of our community. In an effort to protect the guilty and the innocent, rather than focusing on him, I would like to focus on the valuable, much needed insight he provided us this week.
Driving into town from Williston (where I picked him up) on Tuesday, I asked 'Dr. B' what he thought. In a paraphrase he expressed how he could feel excitement and energy, opportunity and prosperity. He also felt the need for anchors and strongholds to hold the vital signs in check during this time and rapid change...... his words ...”Ensure the umbilical cord is not severed to preserve the livelihood and identity of the community"...... And there it was. An identifiable analogy that summarized the uncomfortable feeling of those present in the community prior to the boom. The community's spirit and its agricultural roots have always been the umbilical cord that has maintained vitality for this community through tough times when others in rural America have folded up.
This little community on the edge of the badlands and just on the inside bend of the south shore of Lake Sakakawea is sitting on the tipping point between being a 'shining star' community or turning into a 'dime a dozen' oil boom town that you drive through on your way to Denver (no offense to WY.... I love blue collar, get it done people and WY is filled with those folks. Personally, I would just like to package our community and its way of life in prettier paper and a shiny bow).
Watford City has an integrated health care system that includes a clinic, hospital with an ER, assisted living apartment units, nursing home and brand new, soon to open, wellness center. There are plans for a new hospital in the future. It has a great public school system where in K - 6 the education system is adding a new section to each grade and beginning construction on a new middle school this upcoming construction season. The school district (McKenzie Co School District #1) has implemented technologies to bring a curriculum otherwise not sustainable for a school system its size for student advancement and career exploration.
Seriously, I could go on and on... it is a great place to live, work and play. The community is under very strong leadership. When it tips, my bet is that it will be a shining star community and NOT just another boom town.
There is buzz in the national and international media. The message is that there is no housing. What I can tell you..... There are lots available in platted subdivisions for $30,000.00 to $50,000.00. To have a house custom built, there are quality builders that charge between $100.00 and $150.00 per square foot of finished living space. Compare it to where you are and decide if you think there is attainable housing. Some would say yes and some would say not, depending on how you define the term.
Also, there are new hotels opening to meet the needs of the current short term lodging shortage.... which brings me to my point.
I really encourage you to come visit..... maybe after you see it, you will want to stay.
Side note: A year ago this week, we recieved one of the worst blizzards in recent history. A reminder of what a difference a year can make.
If and when you do visit our wonderful community, we hope that you can also come visit us on our little piece of heaven at the end of the road where the cows certainly are happy, the calves healthy and the horses and humans are getting fitter and fitter by the day.......www.bestangusandquarterhorses.com