Popular Winthrop campground gets some upgrades
Even in the rain, the Winthrop KOA is an appealing place to spend the night. As new co-owner Jen Rasmussen pulls into the office parking lot after dropping her daughter off at school in the morning, a guest comes up to greet her and thank her for his pleasant visit.
“This was a great place to stay,” the visitor says, gesturing around at the dripping trees, the manicured lawns, lilacs and potted flowers. “I’ll be back.”
That guest is not alone in his plans to return. Indeed, the Winthrop KOA, with its river access, swimming pool, store and shaded campsites under mature trees, is a bit of an oasis that many families return to year after year. And since they come from an extended family with a long history of KOA ownership throughout the west, co-owners Rasmussen and her husband, Stu, are well-equipped to continue the high standard of quality that guests have come to expect from this local campground.
Opened in the 1970s by the Meyers family, the Winthrop KOA is, as Jen describes it, “tranquil.” Some KOAs, she continues, “feel crowded and busy, but this one can absorb a lot of campers without feeling loud or overrun.” It’s set back from the road, so guests hear not traffic noise, but instead the burble of the river as it flows by. And the KOA’s proximity to the town’s amenities and downtown itself make it even more appealing.
Jumped at chance
Due to their family connections to KOAs, the Rasmussens knew “exactly what we were getting into in terms of lifestyle and business,” says Jen, despite the fact that she and Stu had never owned or managed a campground before. “We always joked to the others that ‘If you buy the Leavenworth KOA we’ll come work for you!’”
The Winthrop KOA, says Jen, “is even better.” So when the family purchased it, Jen and Stu were thrilled to come on board as one slice of a 10-family ownership pie, and to serve as the onsite managers. “We’ll do it!” they answered, when the offer was made.
Jen’s background is in outdoor recreation, business and leadership. Starting as an outdoor recreation major in college, Jen switched to a degree in leadership with a minor in business when someone told her, “You can’t make a living in the recreation business,” but she retains her love of hiking and being active, and looks forward to opportunities to explore the Methow Valley and the mountains beyond, and to sharing her favorite ideas for recreation with guests.
Previously, Jen worked in the finance department of a health center and says, “Whenever I was in the office I always wished I was outside.” And although she certainly spends long hours indoors in the KOA office, she also has numerous duties that take her outside, into the outdoor work environment of campground ownership.
The Rasmussens packed up their life in Spokane, where they had been living since the 1990s, and moved to Winthrop in February to start getting the campground ready for the summer. What was intended to be a slow ramp-up to the busy season quickly turned into a non-stop flurry of projects, including a major remodel of the store, dashing their immediate plans of taking some time to explore the valley. “Since we moved in the dead of winter,” says Jen, “I was really looking forward to cross country skiing. I guess that will have to wait until next year.”
In addition to remodeling the campground store, the Rasmussens revamped some campsites and outfitted them with cabins and covered wagons. “Glamping,” Jen calls it. “You get the ambiance of camping with the comfort of a hard floor and air conditioning.”
Camping traffic has begun fast and furious this year, says Jen. “For ’49er Days we got surprised with a bunch of walk-ins in addition to advance reservations.” The KOA is already full to capacity for Memorial Day and the Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival weekends, and even many mid-week reservations have already been made for what are typically slower periods.
The Rasmussens, who have a daughter in elementary school, say that they are slowly getting to know the community. “Right now we only know the people at school, the grocery store and Ace Hardware,” Jen says, “but we look forward to getting to know many more people. Come into the campground and say hi.”
More information about the Winthrop KOA can be found at koa.com/campgrounds/Winthrop.