There are those that believe the sunsets seen from Cut Bank are some of the best in the land.
John and Shelly Lighthizer will be the first to agree Cut Bank is indeed home to beautiful sunsets. As the new campground owners of what was Riverview RV Park, they decided to rename the campground in honor of those gorgeous evening displays, calling it Sunset RV Park.
“When we were first discussing ownership of the park, we would go there and just sit in the Jeep at different sites or places and talk about it,” said Shelly. “The sunsets are absolutely the best in Cut Bank, hands down, so of all the names we came up with, that was the most fitting and it stuck with us.”
The Lighthizers had a few months of discussion regarding the purchase of the RV park, starting back in July of 2019. But in April of 2020, the deal was final and the Lighthizer’s became the new owners, renamed the park and have been busy greeting guests and doing a mega-remodel job too.
“Some might say, why with COVID would you do this? Well, we started discussing the opportunity that presented itself to us in July 2019 and by the time we were in deep, COVID had hit,” Shelly explained. “What do you do? Shoot from the hip and hope for the best.”
That seems to be a good business plan as campers are finding them and life at Sunset RV Park is going very well.
“Our family and friends kept saying how we are a great fit for this, we are going to be great at this, nothing but encouragement. But let’s be honest, who the heck would buy a campground during a pandemic?” Shelly questioned.
But the Lighthizers did and in three words, “We love it!”
She continued, “Our dreams are happening, we are making more future plans and we wouldn’t change a thing. We had no idea how to start a business, still learning that everyday and time didn’t stop for you to try to comprehend what to do and how. But our customers are the best, they give suggestions, praise and they enjoy our park.”
From the minute the Lighthizers took ownership, they got busy remodeling and cleaning. “We have torn down a house and an outside building and completely gutted the shower room, bathrooms, office, camp store, ceilings and stripped the floors. We changed the road and added gravel, removed dead trees, took many loads to the dump, weed-eated a trail to the river and just cleaned it up tremendously,” she shared.
And for the future of the campground, “We would like to add mini-golf, outside games, crafts, fishing trips, more sites, more gazebos, wedding venues and entertainment. This all, of course, will be awhile, but we want to keep our customers coming back so we want to find activities that will entertain them and have them refer us.”
The price for a one-night stay is $40 which includes WiFi, electricity, water and showers. If you opt to stay a week or month, those prices get discounted, but the same amenities are included.
If you prefer to “tent it” at the RV park, the $30 price includes a night with showers and WiFi.
There are 32 RV sites, with 28 of those being pull-throughs. Check-in time for campers is 2 p.m. and check-out time is noon. Quiet time is 10:30 p.m. to 8 a.m. each day.
There is, however, one question the Lighthizers have been asked a few times. How do you operate an RV park during a pandemic?
“Everyone that has stayed has been very respectful and mindful of each other’s space. Some people choose to wear masks and others do not. We have them available, if they want one,” she explained. “Our showers, bathrooms, laundry room, door handles, light switches, counter, pens and anything else that is touched, are cleaned daily or as often as we need each day. We also have implemented a self-check where customers don’t have to come into the office at all. Many of them have used that or the online reservation system.”
For the most part, John runs the park each day, but when their boys, Jonathan and Tanner, come home, they are also working at the park. Shelly does the paperwork and the books for the park and continues to work at CHS where she has been for the past 11 years. John worked in the oilfields for over 20 years, before calling it quits this year.
John was born in North Dakota and moved to Montana where he was raised. Shelly was born and raised in Cut Bank. They have been married for 29 years and the have two sons, Jonathan, 28, and Tanner, 23.
Shelly said they had always talked about being camp hosts when they got to retirement age. “We loved camping and had been doing it since we were kids ourselves. We grew up knowing this to be part of life and we loved it. It is part of our lives.”
So, while camping was a family recreation thing while the kids were growing up, it has now become a family business thing and something they all enjoy.