NPS to Package Three Lodges on the Blue Ridge Parkway Under One Concessions Contract

Blue Ridge Parkway officials are hoping a concessions package that includes the Bluffs Lodge will lure a concessionaire to manage the facilities. Photo by David and Kay Scott.

The National Park Service recently announced that it would package the Blue Ridge Parkway concessions operation for lodging, retail, and food and beverage visitor services for Peaks of Otter Lodge, Bluffs Lodge, and Rocky Knob Cabins under a single prospectus expected to be released in April 2012.

The award date is anticipated for sometime in November next year. Prospective concessionaires would bid on a 10-year contract to manage all three properties. Pisgah Inn, the only other lodging facility on the Parkway is operated by a separate concessionaire.

Bluffs Lodge and its associated coffee shop were closed for the 2011 season and are expected to remain closed for the 2012 season. Rocky Knob Cabins and nearby Mabry Mill are being operated under a two-year contract that continues through the 2012 season.

Peaks of Otter Lodge is currently operated by Crestline Hotels and Resorts, a hotel management company headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia. The company manages numerous Hilton, Marriott, and Intercontinental properties, in addition to several independents including the lodge at Peaks of Otter. It appears Crestline is unlikely to bid on the upcoming contract.

Bluffs Lodge with 24 guest rooms and Rocky Knob Cabins with seven lodging units are small operations and difficult to operate profitably. As an example, Rocky Knob Cabins saw revenues of a little under $65,000 for the entire 2009 season. Meanwhile, Bluffs Lodge generated $327,000 during this same period.

Park Service officials are thinking that bringing a more viable property such as Peaks of Otter Lodge with 63 guest rooms and nearly $3 million of 2009 revenues into the mix makes it more likely a company with deeper pockets will bid on the contract.

In 2009, the operation at Peaks of Otter generated nearly twice as much in revenue as Bluffs Lodge, the Bluffs coffee shop, Rocky Knob Cabins, and Mabry Mill combined. The restaurant operation at each property typically generates more revenues than lodging.

According to Blue Ridge Parkway concession management specialist Laura Nelson, Bluffs Lodge needs some loving care to bring it up to snuff. The Park Service is hoping that inclusion of Peaks of Otter will attract such a bidder. In fact, Bluffs has always been one of our favorite park lodges and the nearby coffee shop is one of the great, funky places in all the NPS kingdom.

Bluffs, Mabry Mill, Rocky Knob Cabins, and the Crabtree Falls Gift Shop were operated by Forever Resorts for a number of years following the company's purchase of former concessionaire National Park Concessions. Forever pulled out of its Blue Ridge Parkway operations following the 2010 season.

The Park Service was unable to locate a concessionaire for Bluffs Lodge and the coffee shop, and awarded a temporary contract for the operation of Rocky Knob Cabins and Mabry Mill.

Comments

I'm so happy that there's a chance that the lodge at Doughton Park has a chance of reopening.
I'm even happier about the coffee shop. One of the best stops on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
Danny Bernstein
www.hikertohiker.com

Thank you so much for the update. My husband and I have been visiting this part of Blue Ridge Parkway and staying at the Bluffs Lodge for years. I just can't imagine that coffee shop not open any more. It is a real loss to the local community and to all the park visitors in this area. Will keep my fingers crossed that next year the coffee shop and the lodge will reopen. Please keep us posted on any updates and developments.

I can't believe bluffs lodge is not open. My husband and I enjoy going there every year. The place is like being in a time warp going back in time. We love the old waitresses and the old man who keeps filling our coffee cups. It is such a cool and unique place. This is very depressing. I pray they will re-open. I also pray they do not change it that is what made it unique.

Agreed, The Bluffs is where we go to escape and we had been planning a trip for the past few years. Perhaps the better solution would be for the NPS to sell the properties outright. As an investor, I would not want the strings that likely come attached with anything owned by the federal government, which is probably what has scared away new management.

Can't wait till this lodge reopend Have stayed there numerous times over past 20 years.

Keep us posted Please

My family and I have loved traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway for many years. Bluffs Lodge was one of our favorite places to stay!!! We sincerely hope this lodge will be reopened soon. The coffee shop was wonderful and a great place to stop for breakfast or lunch, especially for hikers!

Why is it that the same people have been allowed to run their business in the publicly owned pisgah inn? Why isn't it published how much they pay in leasing the place? Many believer it is nothing short of a scam being ran on taxpayers. If it isn't, then the first thing that should happen is to make public what these people pay for its use. I've heard it has been granted leases for ten years at a time..... Just that smells fishy. It's public property, not to be used as a method for personal profit.