If you’ve always dreamed of boarding llamas and donkeys, and doing it with National Park Service approval, your ship has come in.
The Park Service recently released a prospectus seeking proposals for a concession opportunity at Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. This 125,000-acre, heavily forested unit of the park system is located 65 miles northwest of Knoxville, Tennessee, in southeastern Kentucky and north-central Tennessee.
The concession consists of a stable for renting stall spaces for horses, donkeys, mules, and llamas, plus a camp store (currently called a tack store) for selling souvenirs, picnic supplies, snacks, beverages, ice, firewood, and veterinarian and tack supplies.
The stable and camp store are near the park visitor center and an adjacent 181-site campground.
The 10-year contract authorizes, but does not require the concessionaire to offer wagon rides, bicycle rental, laundry service, veterinarian service canoe rental, guided horse rides, horse rental, interpretive programs and hunting and fishing licenses. There appears to be quite a bit of room for entrepreneurship on the part of the new concessionaire.
Buildings supporting the concession are NPS-owned and the initial investment to begin operations is estimated at only $15,000. Compare this to the estimated $45 million initial investment (and equal number of headaches) for the current open prospectus at Yellowstone National Park.
Concession revenues in 2010 were $62,000, a $10,000 decline from each of the previous two years. The minimum franchise fee is 2 percent of revenues and a repair and maintenance reserve contained in many NPS contracts is not required.
The contract is to take effect on January 1, 2013, and the concession is to be open each year from March 1 through November 30. Proposals are due at the National Park Service by September 14, 2012.