In May of 2011 when I first came to Dickinson, North Dakota to work in the oil field, I began going to Patterson Lake on the weekends. Patterson Lake is just a few miles from downtown Dickinson. During that summer, on the north shore of the lake where they had public parking, a beach, boat ramp, cook out grills, and campground, there would be several hundred people on Saturday and Sunday.
When I returned to Dickinson in May of 2013, I was disappointed to see that on every weekend that summer there were fewer than fifty people at Patterson Lake beach. It was kind of lonely. I talked to other people to ask what happened, what changed. I came to the conclusion that the Dickinson State University girls became tired of being ogled by both the out of state oil field workers and the local men, that the out of state oil field workers became tired of the locals, and the locals became tired of the out of state oil field workers. The DSU students, the out of state oil field workers, and the locals all quit going to Patterson Lake in the summer.
I still enjoyed going to Patterson Lake. I would sit in a beach chair and read, swim, cook out with friends, go kayaking, and walk my dog. But often times there were very few people at Patterson Lake. On the north shore of the lake, the paved public parking area had the capacity for approximately six hundred vehicles, and there would be only six vehicles.
In 2013, I began to see some things that I didn’t like at Patterson Lake. I would park in the nearly completely vacant main parking lot on the north shore of the lake, and walk east along the trails and along the shore line to the end of the park to follow the trail loop. At the very last parking area, about 1/2 mile from the main parking area, fairly often there would be a parked vehicle with a couple of Hispanic males in it. At the very last parking area, I never once in the past four years saw these people who parked like this walking, exercising, bicycling, playing frisbee, or cooking out. What I did see, was other vehicles enter the park not slowing down for anything and drive 35 mph to 40 mph all the way back to the last parking area, and then leave within five minutes driving 35 mph all the way back out of the park, looking straight ahead not at the scenery, and not slowing down for anything.
There was no reason for adult males to be sitting in a parked car at the most distant and remote area of the park, and having other vehicles drive fast through the park to get back there, and then quickly leave, other than for drug dealing, or other illegal activity. I didn’t like walking the trails and shore line, and on the way back come across this activity. I felt like talking to the police about it, but I believed that I wouldn’t be telling them anything that they didn’t already know.
Sometime in 2016, improvements were made to the north side of Patterson Lake. Two new additional children’s play grounds were constructed adjacent to the main parking area. A wide concrete path was constructed for walking, rollerblading, and bike riding that makes a big loop through park. In the past, most of the people that I saw walking through the park, were exercising large dogs. Now with the new wide concrete path and new playgrounds, I have seen many more women and women with children using the park.
I had been concerned about women walking the park by themselves in the past, because of the strange males that would park and sit in their cars in the most distant and remote area of the park. When I saw more women and women with children coming to the park and walking the new concrete paths that lead out to the distant and remote areas of the park, I was even more worried, because these women seemed to be under the impression that it was safe now. No, it is not entirely safe. The concrete paths are only thirty feet from the woods in areas of the park where the users are far from the parking lot, so far they can’t be seen, and so far they can’t be heard. It is possible for a male to wait in the woods, leap out, and grab someone and drag them back into the woods, without there being any witnesses.
In the Fall of 2016, I observed an adult male at Patterson Lake that was behaving very strangely. He was not relaxing, resting, exercising, or recreating, he was acting very agitated. He would drive to an area of the park, look, then drive to another area of the park look, then drive on, until he made it back to the main parking area. He got out of his car and behaved strangely, he acted like he was mentally ill.
The next time that I went to Patterson Lake, I parked in the main parking area and I began writing checks to pay bills, looking up from time to time. There was no one else on the north shore of Patterson Lake at that time. After about fifteen minutes, I saw on the south shore of Patterson Lake something splashing in the water like a person or a large animal. I got out of my vehicle to walk on the new concrete path down to the edge of the north shore of the lake to see what it was in the water on the south side. I stood there and I looked and I looked, and all of a sudden about seventy feet from me, here comes that strange mentally ill man jumping out of the bushes right beside the concrete path. I had spooked him, he had thought that I had spotted him hiding in the bushes, but I hadn’t known he was there, he startled me.
I can only guess why he was hiding in the bushes right beside the concrete path. I wrote down the license plate number of his vehicle, a description of his vehicle, a description of him, and how he had been acting, and I gave this in writing to a Sheriffs officer. After I left, I believe that the Sheriff officer probably ran the license plate number to see if this person had been convicted of any type of assault in the past.
I want women who visit Patterson Lake or plan on visiting Patterson Lake, to not get on the trails, shoreline, or concrete paths alone, and follow them out into a remote and hidden area. I have been going to Patterson Lake regularly for more than four years, and I have seen strange men parked in the remote areas, and, hiding in the bushes.
Here is a video of Patterson Lake in Dickinson, North Dakota: