Work pays off for Spiritwood Resort
Eric Nordstrom and Ron Voller purchased the property in the winter of 2015 with the vision to reinvigorate the resort and turn it into a family destination.
SPIRITWOOD LAKE, N.D. -- Eric Nordstrom might have moved to Bismarck about three decades, but Jamestown has always been his home.
He returned in the summer of 2015 to go camping at Spiritwood Resort, and after an encounter with an employee while purchasing a pass to enter the campground, Nordstrom joked that he should buy the place himself and run it.
It turned out the campground was for sale. He laughed at the coincidence, but his son, Aaron, took it to heart. After months of pestering, Nordstrom gave in.
He introduced his business partner Ron Voller to Spiritwood Lake, and Voller was instantly interested, thinking it was “the best-kept secret in North Dakota.”
They bought the property in the winter of 2015 with the vision to reinvigorate the resort and turn it into a family destination. The property had become run down over the years, and there were issues surrounding the sewer and other amenities, Voller said.
The partners began working on renovating the campground, but about six months into the project, Nordstrom’s son died in a plane crash on June 9, 2016. He was 10 years old.
Instead of selling the campground and returning to Bismarck, Nordstrom chose to revitalize “every square inch” of the resort. He’s dedicated to making the campground something his son would be proud of, especially seeing how Aaron loved his new home on the lake.
“It’s been ongoing,” Nordstrom said. “It feels like a special project now.”
The partners have put several thousand dollars into renovating the campground over the last seven years, including revamping the 90-unit campground and adding septic systems. They’ve also renovated the restaurant and built an outdoor stage for professional acts to perform.
“Most of the time, those kinds of places are picked up, run for three years and don’t have a lot put into them,” Voller said, “but we’ve put everything into this to make it what it is. We’ll continue to run a class act out there.”
Most recently, they added a professional-grade sand volleyball court this spring, put in a new parking lot and upgraded the restaurant kitchen to improve the standard wait time for meals.
Nordstrom would like to put in a new basketball court soon, estimating that the project won’t happen until this fall or the spring of 2023.
“I’ve been saying for two or three years that I’m done, but every year there’s some project we’ll take on or expand so we have more to offer our guests,” Nordstrom said. “I’m not a quitter. I’m going to see this finished.”
The result of their renovations is that the Spiritwood Resort has become a popular destination for locals and for North Dakotans looking for a vacation in-state. The resort is full every week, Nordstrom said, and the waiting list is 100 people long, with some people waiting years before they get a spot.
Arnie Harrison, from Jamestown, keeps his camper out at the resort year-round. He’s paid for the spot since before Voller and Nordstrom bought the business, and has seen the shift over time. He added that the before-and-after comparison is “completely phenomenal.”
“They’re building something great out there,” Harrison said. “I support them every chance I can get in my schedule.”
Harrison will spend weekends out there with his family or he’ll sleep in his camper during the week, too. He and his wife recently celebrated their wedding anniversary with supper at the restaurant, and he attended the Shania Twin concert at the end of July.
He says his favorite part of the resort is waking up with a cup of coffee in the morning, sitting on his deck and watching the area come alive with birdsong and deer poking around.
Voller said more people are visiting from further distances and they’re seeing plenty of repeat customers from the Jamestown area.
“It’s a destination,” Nordstrom said. “It’s the nicest campground and nicest park in the state — or at least it is now.”
Spiritwood Resort hosts several events in the summer that attract people to the lake, Nordstrom added. The annual Independence Day fireworks show is popular, and the last concert of the summer is the Cody Charles Band on Aug. 27.
The resort, and the lake itself, are treasures for locals, Harrison said.
“(Vonner and Nordstrom) will probably never see the full return,” Harrison said, “but what they’re building right now is for the future, and it’s something to hold onto.”