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Continued: Fighting to keep the oil boom out of North Dakota park

  • Article by: PAM LOUWAGIE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: September 20, 2014 - 5:26 PM

“My stress level gets much smaller,” said Hornfeldt, a recently retired teacher. “It’s really important to have places like this. People crave this.”

Oil pumpers and more flares and traffic would spoil the grandeur, Hornfeldt said.

“Find another place,” added Virnig, who spoke in sign language with Hornfeldt translating. Natural spaces are getting smaller and smaller, she said.

With an average of fewer than 600,000 visitors a year recently, Theodore Roosevelt Park has never been among the country’s most-visited. But as the population around it increases, the hum of the boom permeating the landscape, its popularity may increase.

On Christmas Day, for instance, when the park is usually abandoned, a dozen cars were in the parking lot, Naylor said. Oil industry workers now seek it out to get away from the constant construction, traffic, dust and noise that the boom has brought. That slice of serenity is more important than ever, Naylor knows.

Gravel crunched under Naylor’s ranger boots as she hiked to the River Bend Overlook, which she pronounced “the most beautiful view in all of North Dakota.” She held her wide-brimmed hat against the whipping prairie winds.

“I love this park,” Naylor said. “I will continue to always protect it.”


Pam Louwagie • 612-673-7102


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  • Valerie Naylor made her way down one of the many trails at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Wednesday, July 23, 2014 in North Dakota. Naylor has made an effort to keep surrounding large oil companies out of the park. ] (ELIZABETH FLORES/STAR TRIBUNE) ELIZABETH FLORES •

  • An eagle eye: Park Superintendent Valerie Naylor, above, keeps close watch over the park, working hard to make sure the oil boom doesn’t encroach too deeply.

  • ‘A very special place’: Among its many treasures, the landscape includes wildflowers and wildlife. Below, buffalo made their way across one of the roads. North Dakota has more than 11,000 producing oil wells, and the state’s oil and gas division estimates capacity for 60,000 more, with drilling continuing for at least 20 years. At times at some vistas, Naylor said a park visitor could see more than 20 natural gas flares shining in the distance.

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