Building Communities

Burke County, North Dakota

If the phrase “United we stand, divided we fall” ever pertained to a county, it would be Burke County North Dakota.
Ever since the 1930 Census reported the county’s population two people short of 10,000, Burke County has lost about 100 people per year every year for 80 years.   The 2010 Census reported that only 1,968 citizens remained in 2010.  Over 80% of the population prior to the Great Depression has been lost. 

But, for the first time in 80 years, Burke County is growing.  Even the relative isolation of the county cannot escape one of the most significant economic growth movements in American history.  Burke County is in the Bakken Oil Field—and the Bakken means new people, new jobs, pressures on roads and infrastructure, and yet a fresh opportunity to craft a future based upon the promise of a better day.

Despite the vigor of the virtually uncontrollable economic possibilities, the dream of a better day is most challenged by the longstanding division within the county.  Where difficult circumstances generally cause people to band together, Burke County has generally adopted an “every man for himself” posture.   Cities within the county have not collaborated.   And the county has been divided by five.  10,000 to 2,000.

Then came Plan Week.   A small nucleus of community volunteers and leaders committed themselves to working together.   It no longer matters whether you reside in Bowbells, Columbus, Flaxton, Lignite, Portal, or Powers Lake.   What matters is you live in Burke County, and the time is now to take charge of the future.  This plan is about the people that care the most about the future of Burke County creating a future that benefits those that have remained, and inviting a new generation of citizens that not only will call Burke County home, but will build communities with the positive outlook that pervaded the same county a century ago.

Burke County now has a student enrollment that is growing.   Burke County now has population inflow that is causing serious discussions of how to accommodate a growing population.   Good neighbors welcoming good neighbors.

Burke County is worth fighting for.   While the population would have to quintuple only to reach the level of 1930, six cities are poised to welcome new neighbors, and to create better communities for the people that already call Burke County home.

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