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Associated Press, Published January 30 2012

Williston Walmart parking lot a mecca for Oil Patch job seekers' campers

WILLISTON, N.D. — Williston's Walmart is becoming a mecca for oil field job seekers from around the country who are flocking to the region in campers and motor homes. The store's parking lot also is becoming notorious, a place to avoid when daylight ends.

Walmart has a reputation for allowing people on the move to pull off the highway for an overnight stay. But in Williston, where housing is tight because of the booming energy fields, some overnights are turning into however long people can get away with staying there until they're told to move.

David Buchanan, 52, who came from Oklahoma, said he has been parking in the lot on and off for two months and has picked up some temporary work.

Steve Gillette, 54, came with his pop-up trailer from South Carolina. He uses a sleeping bag to keep warm inside the thin, unheated canvas enclosure.

"I'm not staying here any longer than I have to," he said. "It's noisy around the clock ... you should be here at night to see the cars running all night and guys sleeping in them. Last night, some guy came tearing through here and knocked over one of those big light poles."

Tyler Hernandez, who came from Utah, said he won't stay in the Walmart lot.

"You hear so many horror stories," he said. "I won't let my wife come into town at night by herself."

Stephanie Cotney, who moved with her family to Williston from Arkansas a year ago, said she shops at Walmart in the daytime.

"I won't come here after dark, only in the day when there are lots of people around," she said.

Ashley Hardie, a Walmart spokeswoman, said Monday that the store's goal is to provide a safe and pleasurable shopping experience — and that includes the outside parking areas. Hardie said the growth in the region has brought some challenges, but the store is working with local and law enforcement officials to address the issues.

She said that any customer who would like to be escorted out to their vehicle can ask a store manager for assistance.

Williston Mayor Ward Koeser said he has talked to the store's management about the situation, though he recognizes that it is tough to control.

"It doesn't work well to have all the campers, garbage and other issues," Koeser said. "I know they're trying to minimize that."


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.