Ever Want To Run A National Park Concession? Apply For Blue Ridge Parkway Concessions Contract

Interested in running a national park concession? The contract for the Rocky Knob Cabins along the Blue Ridge Parkway is available. David and Kay Scott photo.

If you've ever wanted to get into the national park concessions business, now just might be the time. Officials at the Blue Ridge Parkway are seeking a company to run operations at three locations along the scenic drive.

The National Park Service recently released a 10-year concession proposal for a combination of several properties on the Parkway. A single contract will cover operations at Peaks of Otter, Rocky Knob, and Doughton Park. The three locations are at milepost 86, milepost 174, and milepost 241, respectively. Pisgah Inn, the parkway’s fourth lodging facility, is operated under a separate contact that expires in 2013.

Peaks of Otter, the farthest north of the group, includes a lodge with 60 guest rooms in three buildings, a restaurant, lounge, gift shop, country store, and transportation of visitors to Sharp Top Mountain. Three handicap-accessible rooms are on the bottom floor of the registration/restaurant building.

Rocky Knob is comprised of seven rustic cabins with no food service or gift shop. Nearby Mabry Mill is not included in the concession proposal.

Doughton Park includes Bluffs Lodge with 24 guest rooms, a separate coffee shop that includes a gift shop, and an adjacent camp store that also serves as a gift shop.

Bluffs Lodge and nearby Bluffs Coffee Shop have been closed since concessionaire Forever Resorts chose not seek renewal of its parkway operation prior to the 2011 season. Forever also decided to forego its operation at Rocky Knob Cabins and nearby Mabry Mill. Unlike Bluffs Lodge and Bluffs Coffee Shop, both Rocky Knob Cabins and Mabry Mill remained open under a temporary contract with a different concessionaire.

Peaks of Otter has historically operated under a separate contact. It appears the NPS has combined it with the proposal for Bluffs Lodge and Rocky Knob Cabins in order to sweeten the pot and entice one or more bidders for the three locations. It is somewhat surprising that Mabry Mill, the most popular stop on the parkway, is not included in the mix, especially since it is located very near Rocky Knob Cabins, which itself has no food service. Consider that if every cabin at Rocky Knob Cabins was filled every night of the six-month season, total revenue for the year would amount to only about $92,000.

A separate issue for a concessionaire is the distances between the three properties. Unlike the three facilities operated by ARAMARK in neighboring Shenandoah National Park that are separated by only 15 miles, the properties on the Parkway are from 70 to 90 miles apart. This would appear to complicate the logistics and management of the three locations, especially since Rocky Knob Cabins is the middle unit of the three.

The estimated initial investment for a new concessionaire is approximately $3.3 million, about half of which is represented by the leasehold surrender interest that must be paid to the existing concessionaire at Peaks of Otter. No leasehold surrender outlay is required at either Bluffs Lodge or Rocky Knob Cabins.

The other major outlay included in the total is $930,000 for personal property, most of which is at Peaks of Otter. Deferred maintenance required by the contract is estimated at $122,000 for 2013 and $123,000 for 2014. The estimated deferred maintenance requirement for 2014 is not included in the $3.3 million initial investment. Historical revenues for the three locations combined are:

Department......................2008..................2009..................2010

Food & Beverage............ $1,820,178.........$1,865,961............$1,865,185

Lodging........................$1,621,018..........$1,686,621...........$1,673,334

Retail..........................$480,678.............$505,817..............$563,682

Transportation................$43,970..............$39,736...............$49,414

The draft contact requires the new concessionaire to place 3.1 percent of gross receipts into a repair and maintenance reserve. It also requires a minimum franchise fee equal to 3 percent of annual gross receipts, although a bidder may propose a higher franchise fee.

Offers must arrive at the National Park Service regional Atlanta office by July 27, 2012.

Comments

I sure hope the the Bluffs coffee shop reopens. It's a great stop right on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in Doughton Park.

Danny - www.hikertohiker.com