Advertising North Dakota

Shelly Ventsch, New Town

Recently Gov. Jack Dalrymple was on the news justifying the NDIC’s permitting more drilling near the Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s North Unit. He had been to the area and said it is “not creating any undue problems … in terms of appreciating the view.”

That is his opinion, one which may not be shared by visitors who come to a national park wanting to see only wilderness. Is this the mindset as long as there is already a scar, no one will notice a few more? Why do I get the feeling the travelling the NDIC members did to look at places where development should be limited will turn out to be a waste of time? Oil production has been touted as a wondrous thing for the state, but what exactly is this state promoting in terms of tourism? In the latest North Dakota Travel Guide, produced by the ND Department of Commerce Tourism Division, Gov. Dalrymple’s welcome has no mention of oil development, what changes it has brought, or that it is something one has to see. Out of 158 pages totaling 13,588 square inches of publication, there is a 3/8 inch rig in a Parshall ad and less than 1/8 inch pumping unit in a Williston ad to “experience the Bakken” (no, thanks).

Only three other places briefly mentioned oil, one being Minot’s ad of “Gateway to the Bakken” (luckily a gateway is also an exit). In each section outdoors, culture and heritage, attractions and lodging, and events oil development was not mentioned. Aside from jobs and money, how is it attractive? The state has held seminars and symposiums, conferences and conventions, oil shows and events where the oil companies rub shoulders with the locals because they “just want to be good neighbors” but these are not included in the schedule of events.

The Tourism Division put out a nice guide but it was done without showing what has been allowed to happen to the western part of the state. But think about it, how could it be promoted realistically? “Come experience the thrill of truck-dodging, watch them cross center lines, run stop signs, and maybe even overturn, spilling a river of crude or catching on fire. Never had the opportunity to hit the ditch? This may be your chance! Come search for the disappearing wildlife as they make their way through a habitat fragmented by oil sites, gravel pits, compressor stations, man camps, pipe and power lines, new rails, and roads littered with trucker bombs and radioactive filter socks. Country adventure includes the challenge of hearing birdsong through the industrial racket of engine brakes, drilling rigs, pumping units, and howling flares. While you’re here, check out the night sky, lit by the eerie moving glow of never-ending flaring, minimizing the Northern Lights, planets, and stars. And don’t forget to take a deep breath of what North Dakota is famous for fresh air, now with added truck exhaust, flare emissions and dust mingled with frac sand and a variety of chemicals.”

Should prostitution, drugs, the homeless, violence, price gouging, and whatever else may be experienced with a boom be mentioned? People who left the state years ago have come to visit and say they are heartbroken and won’t come back. If the state is interested in attracting the genuine tourist to western N.D., maybe false advertising is the way to go. But it may be a one-time trip.