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Growth in Elk City stems from new oil boom

Elk City is experiencing its third oil boom as the search for oil has led thousands of people to migrate to the far western Oklahoma boom town.
by Adam Wilmoth Published: July 30, 2012

No one seems to know just how many people live in Elk City.

The official 2010 census recorded a population of 12,000, but the oil boom in western Oklahoma has attracted thousands more to the area.

Oil companies have drilled wells throughout Western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle, flooding the area with righands, truck drivers, service crews and their families.

The rapid population growth quickly filled the available housing, driving up rent and property values.

“The RV parks are full,” Elk City Economic Development Director Shane Frye said. “The temporary housing outside the city is full. We have trailer parks popping up all over.”

So many people have moved to the area that the city's hotels are almost always full, often with oil-field workers and their families.

The school district sends buses to the hotels to pick up the many students who live in the hotels with their families, officials said.

Crowds of newcomers hoping for a piece of the oil patch prosperity are nothing new for Elk City.

The community experienced similar booms in the 1950s and in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Twenty years ago, city parks were transformed into tent cities, and storm cellars rented for as much as $500 a month.

Today, however, city ordinances ban tent cities.

“Then, they all wanted to live in the city limits because they couldn't get phone service or cable service further out,” businessman Basil Weatherly said. “This time around, we have cellphones and small satellite dishes, so they can go anywhere.”

The city recently completed a study that showed a need for 105 homes for purchase and 45 rental properties per year for the next five years.

Local developers are building houses throughout the city, but they cannot keep up with demand, Frye said.

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