More Than a Place to Park a Motor Home

By Beacon Staff

POLSON – The Polson Motorcoach and RV Resort ain’t your Daddy’s campground.

This upscale business situated on a south-facing slope with an expansive view of Flathead Lake silhouetted against the Mission Mountains is a unique commodity.

The brainchild of Paul and Carlisa London, the 25 acres of rolling countryside overlooking the Polson Airport eventually will feature 180 sites customized for Class A motor coaches.

The initial phase of the project – infrastructure on 83 lots – is complete. Many of the 37 available lots are sold or occupied as rental space as multi-color, upper-end coaches dot the hillside just northwest of town.

It’s been a tall order in this challenging economic time, but with creative financing assistance from First Interstate Bank, which works with prospective buyers, an optimistic Paul London is undaunted and prefers to focus on the positive.

KOA Campground employee Myke Booth delivers mail to residents of the Polson Motorcoach and RV Resort in Polson.

“We’ve really helped keep the local economy going up here,” he said, pointing out a myriad of aesthetic and functional improvements made both by the resort and its patrons.

Along with ostentatious and creative landscaping, owners have built elaborate built-in kitchens complete with granite countertops and inviting living spaces with sound systems alongside their upscale coaches.

“People are creating this outdoor lifestyle,” London said. “The value of the lots keeps just going up and up and up because of the amenities people are putting on their sites.”

Originally a 12.5-acre KOA campground, and still part of the company’s reservation system, the Londons found it difficult to make ends meet as just a campground.

After conducting a feasibility study, they visualized a first-class resort that catered both to full-time motor homers – those who have no other residence – and owners who take their home on wheels on the road during the summer months.

They purchased an adjoining 12.5 acres and, while the approval process for the project was arduous, sitting at a picnic table on a large deck overlooking the project, Paul London said it’s surely been worth the effort.

Along with current and planned amenities expected in a first-class resort, there’s a heart-stopping view.

“It’s the best view of any park I’ve ever seen in America,” said Phil Smith of Grass Valley, Calif. “We just fell in love with it.”

He and his wife Sue have made a quartet of 12,000-mile swings around North America in their Diplomat motor coach over the last four years.

A sentiment echoed by Valerie Dummer of Melbourne, Fla. She described the landscape as “the land of brown and green.”

“There are colors up here that you can’t even articulate, that are nowhere else in the world and it’s beautiful,” she said. “I never thought I could be content just sitting and looking at a view but really I could just pass out.”

The Dummers and the Smiths are quick to add that besides the landscape, they also have become endeared to the people of Polson.

“It’s very low key. We have come to really love the very natural sense of Polson,” said Phil Smith. “We actually have more friends here after being here for two months than we have at home.”

The Londons were in the market for a campground when they visited the property 10 years ago. The couple was looking to pare back after fulltime motor-home travel in the garment business, but the online photos of the property were less than inspiring.

But after their arrival, their impressions quickly changed.

Chad Dunshee, left, and Donald Stanfield work on the landscaping around a resident’s lot at the Polson Motorcoach and RV Resort. Some residents chose to garnish their lot with patio space, outdoor kitchens or fire rings with other ornamental landscaping.

“Wow this really has something,” said Paul, after seeing what had been described as a “million-dollar view,” but portrayed in photos as a hay field on the side of a hill.

In the midst of a three-month trip, they decided to consider a possible purchase, but shortly after leaving, they opted to return and further check out the area.

“We got a good feeling from everybody, so we said, ‘let’s do it,’” Paul said.

And while still a work in progress – an owner’s lounge and fitness room is planned in the near future as well as other site preparation – the resort is already receiving nationwide acclaim from such RV rating notaries as “Trailer Life” and “Woodall’s.”

The area includes a swimming pool available for public use and a mini-golf course attractively decorated like the remainder of the grounds with flowers from Clarisa London’s two greenhouses. There’s an attractive gift shop, an espresso stand alongside a huge common area and other amenities you would expect from a five-star resort.

Garbage is picked up from each site daily, propane is delivered to individual sites and newspapers are placed at your doorstep. Concierge service handles your every entertainment and dinner whim and arrangements can be made to have your coach washed, fully serviced or repaired.

“My thing is to pay attention to details,” said Paul, who guests say is renowned for picking up a spot of paper or pulling a weed as he walks the grounds.

“There’s nothing like this in Montana,” he said. “We want everywhere your eyes look, they’re happy.”

Owners say the Londons themselves have a lot to do with what makes living at the resort a pleasurable experience. Activities are organized to promote a neighborhood feeling and owners wear nametags with their nicknames to spur on conversation.

With the airport runway just a few hundred yards away, visitors sometimes fly in and several pilots have purchased sites.

Lot sizes vary from 3,000 to 6,000 square feet and prices for the deeded property range from $109,000 to $199,000. The resort allows lot rental and some spaces have been purchased speculatively.

The Londons, whose 6-year-old daughter is named after former Montana Lady Griz star point guard Skyla Sisco, are not resting on their laurels and still travel frequently to trade shows.

A recent grand opening brought several hundred community members to a ribbon cutting but more important in Paul’s perspective was the proper raising of the American and Flathead Nation flags.

Living on the Flathead Reservation, he felt a special obligation to honor Native American heritage, and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes provided drummers to ensure proper homage was paid.

“I want to show respect,” he said. “To have the honor to fly that flag meant a lot to us.”

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