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At Larimore Dam campground, RVs put down roots with patios, pools, landscaping

Various plants, ornaments and furniture decorate the yard of summer-long campers Rita and Robert Robinson at the Larimore Dam Recreation Area campground. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald1 / 3
Scott and Cheryl Macken stand on the permanent deck attached to their 40-foot camper at the Larimore Dam Recreation Area. The Macken's have camped at the campground for seven years, and lived there for the entire summer the last three. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald2 / 3
Joan Anderson relaxes on her back patio next to her pool and garden outside her camper in the Larimore Dam Recreation Area where she stays all summer long. "It feels like I'm on vacation even though my house is only four miles away," Anderson said. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald3 / 3

LARIMORE DAM, N.D. — Although Mark and Joan Anderson have a home in Larimore, N.D., for five months of the year they pack up their house and move about four miles down the road to live in a 40-foot camper while still carrying out their daily work schedules.

Their home away from home includes their camper, a patio, a shed and an above ground swimming pool — everything they need to make the place home.

“It’s like you’re on vacation all summer,” Joan said.

The Andersons aren’t alone in camping all summer and longer at the Larimore Dam Recreation Area in Grand Forks County, which is open May 1 to Oct. 1. Another 119 families stay for most of the season, a trend that campground Manager Nat Bornsen said is growing.

 “We get a few more (summer-long campers) every year,” he said.

Bornsen said it may be due to electrical upgrades completed in recent years that bumped up the power available at each campsite. “If we would have had those upgrades sooner, (summer-long camping) would have picked up sooner.”

Rates for the five-month period run at $1,000 with a $200 charge for those who wish to keep their trailer and belongings on the property during the winter months. The only other charge campers are responsible for is electricity. Mowing services are included in the seasonal rate.

But for Joan and others who live there for the duration of summer, the amenities associated with the comforts of home aren’t what make the living situation so ideal.

“It’s a completely different community here and it’s only four miles away,” she said.

A community affair

For eight years, Joan and her husband have returned each summer to their small plot on the campground.

“It’s a great place to spend with friends and family,” she said. “Being able to sit by the fire every night is really nice.”

All throughout the campground, campers adorned with decks, patios, screened porches and expansive garden areas can be found. There are no restrictions on yard décor as long as it isn’t offensive.

Unique to every camp unit, Joan said the displays at each site make the campground feel more like a community.

“We have community events all the time,” she said. “We’re always having company over.”

Some of the community events include a Mexican fiesta night, wine walks and group picnics.

While the campground is usually bustling with activities, some campers seek a quieter atmosphere.

Back to nature

Wayne and Sharon Dupree of Grafton, N.D., were one of the first people to permanently camp in the park nearly 16 years ago.

“We’ve camped all our life,” Sharon said. “I like the peace and quiet.”

The Duprees were the seventh campers to originally begin staying at the recreation area full-time. In that time, Sharon said she has seen quite a few changes to the park.

“We’re getting a few more Canadians who stay for the weekend, sometimes longer,” she said. “There used to be more swimming at the dam, but it’s gone down a lot since the flood.”

The longtime campers at the park have a corner plot, which has allowed the Duprees to be more creative with their landscaping. A totem pole dominates all the other garden features, which include several flower beds, lawn and garden trinkets, a patio area and trees they have planted themselves.

“Every year the landscaping is different,” Sharon said. “It just depends on what I can find.”

Scott and Cheryl Macken have been calling their 40-foot camper home for the past three summers.

Making additions to their 30-foot-by-10-foot attached deck, the Mackens have made the camper a place for family to visit and gather.

“With the winters as long as they are here, it’s nice to get out here and be outside,” Scott said. “You get so cooped up.”

Working at nearby Grand Forks Air Force Base, the Mackens said they always try to move out to the campground from Larimore as soon as possible.

“The downfall is having to leave,” Cheryl said. “It’s just good friends and good times here.”

Call Opstedahl at (701) 780-1137; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1137; or send email to