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Oil Boom Reviving Tiny Prairie Towns

Updated: 04/29/2014 12:12 PM
Created: 04/29/2014 12:08 PM WDIO.com
By: MARTHA IRVINE, Associated Press

Not so long ago, North Dakota was a place people were leaving, in danger of becoming a state filled with ghost towns.  Now, a major oil boom is bringing new life to small towns in the region.

Watford City, in the boom's epicenter, is one town that has exploded with traffic and development, quickly growing from about 1,500 people to as many as 7,000.

"You just gotta live with it -- or else move out," said lifelong Watford City resident Gordon Levang.

Even in places that truly looks like no man's land, there are signs of revival. An old bank that once stood as a reminder of better times now stands in front of a row of new homes behind white picket fences.

The small-town charm is the appeal, residents say.  "They see such a small community and kind people around, they want to move here because it's less traffic, slower pace," said Daniel Ibsen, gas a station clerk and longtime Grenora resident. "Everybody has their manners, y'know?"

Still, housing prices have skyrocketed, even for the most modest of homes. Crime and traffic accidents are up, causing some residents to question the oil boom's worth.

"As long as it's making money for their families, they're OK with it. But they don't want the riff-raff coming in," Ibsen said.

Either way, talk of ghost towns is dying out on this stretch of prairie.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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