WATFORD CITY, N.D. – When a group of Minnesota partners announced they were planning an indoor RV park to house North Dakota oilfield workers, the idea prompted mixed reactions.
“So many people thought we were crazy,” said Louis Bonneville of Carlton, Minn., one of the park’s owners.
But for workers like John Coffer, who spent North Dakota winter months in his RV and once got stuck inside when the door froze, the option to move his camper indoors was a pleasant change.
“It’s nice to step out of your RV and not step into a pile of snow,” said Coffer, a natural gas plant operator.
The North Dakota Indoor RV Park recently expanded near Watford City and the owners have turned down offers to replicate the concept elsewhere, said Bonneville, the park’s managing partner.
The park features a series of 10 insulated and climate-controlled buildings that can house 236 campers.
Eight of the buildings have been full for the past three months and two that were recently built to accommodate 41-foot RVs “are pretty much spoken for,” Bonneville said.
The park did see some tenants leave during the summer, but some who tried to return as cold temperatures set in discovered that the park was full and they couldn’t get back in, Bonneville said.
Owners anticipate that next summer the facility will stay full so tenants don’t lose their spots. In addition, the park recently added 70 outdoor spots will serve as a “holding area” while tenants are on a waiting list, Bonneville said.
The indoor spots cost $1,250 to $1,450 a month in the winter and $1,000 to $1,300 a month in the summer with all utilities included. The outdoor spots cost $900 a month with water, sewer and electricity included.
RV parks in the Bakken often charge $800 or more per month for rent, but electricity and propane are typically not included.
The indoor park will save people the expense of insulating their campers and it will extend the life of their RV by protecting it from the elements, Bonneville said.
Cheryl Long and her family moved from Florida to the indoor park about a year ago because it was the only affordable housing they could find.
Moving the family of four from a three-bedroom house into a camper was challenging, but the indoor space keeps them out of the cold and wind and provides extra storage.
“We’re warm and cozy,” Long said.
Long said she takes a lot of walks with their dog to spend time outdoors. The buildings are primarily windowless except for small windows in the doors.
“You’re in a box within a box,” Long said. “I miss being able to see the sunrise and sunset.”
The family also spends time at the common building, which features flat-screen TVs, arcade games, laundry, vending services and postal service.
The facility is designed to have air exchange ventilation and fire protection and is approved by the North Dakota Department of Health. Vehicles and gas furnaces are not allowed in the buildings.
The park also does background checks on tenants and the buildings provide extra security.
“A lot of families just feel safer here,” Long said.