The Wonders of Pontchartrain Landing (NewOrleans.me. December 2014).


I could not find a link to the article online, so here is the article in its entirety…

The Pontchartrain Landing RV park sprawls on the other side of a lot of ugly nothingness. Driving down France Road out to the Landing in Gentilly takes you past many dead industrial remnants that make you wonder if you’re on the correct track—or if you picked the right place to park your RV for the week. And yet, all day every day, two 24-passenger Pontchartrain Landing busses drive busses full of guests past this industrial wasteland, to and from the French Quarter.

Now-retired yacht captain Scott Shank, who lives in Virgin Islands, saw promise in the property when he stuck there long ago, en route to transporting then-governor Edwin Edwards. “My partner saw prime real estate” says Nate Gaarder, one of three investors in PontchartrainLanding, whose few living neighbors include Seabrook Marine, Zinc Storage and Trinity Yachts which, despite appearances, still produces multi-million dollar boats. “Where Scott’s from in North Carolina and Florida,” says Gaarder, originally from South Dakota, “finding waterfront property is like finding gold.” Pontchartrain Landing’s third investor, Leigh Bock, also serves as the general contractor and construction expert in the three men’s attempt to turn this ugliness into “the new West End,” as Gaarder calls it.

As of today, only 18 of the park’s 40 acres—which stretch from France Rd. to the Sebring Bridge—have been developed. Gaarder shows off 40 boats slips, 600 feet of dock, three permanently moored houseboats (each sleep six at around $300 per night), and a new, still-growing cluster of modern modular apartments.

Pontchartrain Landing sits on an unnamed former barge harbor, offset from Lake Pontchartrain proper. Until the surrounding area comes back to life, Gaarder and company own what feels like a casually private resort. “Everything around here is dead industry, so you don’t have the noise of the city,” Gaarder says. “So it’s just really peaceful.”

Or rather, it’s peaceful until there is football. This quaint/odd park has evolved into a hot football party spot. “They found us!” says Gaarder, who did not plan on catering to sports fans. Before every game of any importance, Pontchartrain Landing fills up like a tailgate party. “Until half the people go off to the game,” says Gaarder, “and the other half stay here.”

For those without tickets, the party then shifts to the cavernous Lighthouse Bar. The bar hosts live music six nights a week, but it exists primarily for the massive television that disrupts the view out the window of a small, sweet pool and a big burbling waterfall. With the Sugar Bowl just a few days away, the park has 180 sites sold, despite having developed only 120 real sites. An undeveloped overflow lot will hold the extra guests.

Pontchartrain Landing opened officially in 2007 as a mere 30 camping sites, rented or donated at the time to those visiting New Orleans to help with Katrina recovery. “We had no amenities out here at all,” recalls Gaarder. “It was just a gravel parking lot full of first responders, nurses, people working in debris removal.”

These days the Landing caters to a leisure clientele, but also to “new locals,” such as folks from the film industry. “Lots of people from Hollywood stay out here when they’re working on feature films,” says Gaarder, pointing to the RV of stuntman. “Nicholas Cage’s Yacht was tied up here for three months. Kathy Bates rented the Presidential Site for three months.” Gaarder himself seems amused that anyone would rent an RV site for almost three-grand a month: “The Presidential Site is a hunk of gravel just like the others. But it has a little cabana built in the front with granite countertops, a grill, a sink, a refrigerator, and a two person hot tub,” says Gaarder. “An attorney once reserved this spot for $2500 a month for two years straight. He only used it one week each month.”

On our tour I spot license plates from Ark, FLA, Minn. One guest who did not wish to be named said that he and over a dozen others have lived at Pontchartrain Landing for years now.

“I’ve been here for three months on business. It’s a good place to stay, nice people—and that’s why people stay at campgrounds,” said Stacy Finley from Gulf Shores, while playing video poker in a room off the Lighthouse Bar. “It’s a good time! It’s more of a social place, it doesn’t get that crazy here. Well, every once in a while…”

Pontchartrain Landing has been successful beyond Gaarder’s hopes, and he and his partners are already executing some big expansions on the property. “First we went after the hardest demographic to capture, which is the people from thousands of miles away, from around the world,” Gaarder says. “Now we’re regrouping and going after the locals.”

Or take this YouTube tour of Pontchartrain Landing…

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