Lodging In Limbo On The Blue Ridge Parkway

The Bluffs Lodge and its coffee shop will remain shuttered along the Blue Ridge Parkway indefinitely. Photos by Kay Scott.

We have both good and bad news to report following our return from a week-long drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The good news is that the experience of an October drive on Parkway is one of life‘s great pleasures. The combination of colors, vistas, and stops along the way make for a nearly perfect fall trip. Much of our time was spent in the Roanoke area, where the morning air was crisp, the mountains were bathed in color, and there were many things to see and do. Upon returning to south Georgia, the two of us agreed that we should have planned to stay longer.

Now for the bad news.

There is a real possibility three of the four lodging facilities on the Blue Ridge Parkway will close or remain closed following the 2012 season. Bluffs Lodge and nearby Bluffs Coffee Shop at Daughton Park have now been shuttered for two seasons following former concessionaire Forever Resorts' decision not to pursue a renewal. The National Park Service was unable to attract another concessionaire to take on the properties.

Peaks of Otter Lodge is expected to close in November (it is generally open year-round) when current concessionaire Crestline Hotels & Resorts fulfills its existing contract. Rocky Knob Cabins is currently being operated by the concessionaire handling Mabry Mill and the Northwest Trading Post. The contracts for Rocky Knob Cabins and the Northwest Trading Post expire at the end of the current season. Mabry is nearing the end of the first year of operation as part of a two-year temporary contract.

The National Park Service has seemingly been unsuccessful in attracting interest in the prospectus covering the future operation of Bluffs, Rocky Knob, and Peaks of Otter that closed October 24. The NPS in April issued a prospectus that packaged the three lodges plus the coffee shop in hopes that Peaks would be sufficiently attractive for a prospective concessionaire to take on Rocky Knob and Bluffs, two small properties (7 cabins and 24 rooms, respectively) that are likely to be money-losers.

It appears the NPS will now offer Peaks of Otter Lodge under a separate contract in hopes of keeping at least one of the three properties open for the upcoming season. To make the proposal more enticing, it is expected the NPS will buy down a portion of the nearly $2.7 million the new concessionaire would be required to pay the outgoing concessionaire for inventory, personal property, and a leasehold interest.

A source indicated the NPS feels reasonably confident that a concessionaire will be found for Peaks of Otter Lodge. There is also the possibility that Rocky Knob Cabins and Mabry Mill can again be packaged together with revenues at Mabry helping to offset losses at the cabins. The outlook for Bluffs Lodge and Bluffs Coffee Shop appears grim unless the Park Service can come up with funds to undertake needed renovations to the facilities.

Pisgah Inn, the fourth lodging facility on the Blue Ridge Parkway appears to be profitable. The contract for Pisgah Inn expires in 2014 and current concessionaire is expected to bid for the new contract.

In other concession news for the Parkway, the NPS has reportedly been unsuccessful in attracting bids to operate the restaurant and campground at Otter Creek. The same has been true for the Northwest Trading Post, where the existing concessionaire indicated it would not bid on the contract. The contract for the Folk Art Center near Asheville, North Carolina, was recently awarded to the Southern Highland Craft Guild.

Comments

Thank you for your thorough and interesting report. Although I can understand the reasoning, packaging Peaks of Otter with money-losing properties was definitely not a smart move, especially in this economy. I stay at Peaks of Otter every spring and hope that it will be picked up now that it is being offered as a stand-alone property. It's the perfect place to decompress after my long drive from Connecticut. I'm glad Pisgah Inn is doing well; that's usually my third stop on the Parkway.

My son and I have stayed at Bluffs Lodge many times and I really miss it! The view out the south side to the Fodder Stacks and beyond is simply gorgeous.

Wow! This will put a lot of pressure on Mt. Pisgah Lodge. It's been hard enough to get in there already.

Visited the lodge at the Peaks this past weekend. They were speaking aqbout thew posible closing. Did not sound like they feel anyone will come forward. The two employees we spoke with left some to be desired - one was very gruff and while the other was friendly she did not go out of her way to be helpful.

I think the park service needs to offer to help with remodeling of the lodge to help an investor to take a stronger look at this site. The cost to bring this lodge into a more mordern era will be HIGH!!!!

I understandf jobs will be lost if any of these locations close. Seems that in order for an investor to be interested they will need loads of working captial to get things up and running. More access to the outside world are needed at the Peaks. There also needs to be promtions for the areas nearby - other than Roanoke. Bedford has the D-Day Memorail! Let's not forget Lynchburg whihc has much history itself that a traveller may want to take in. Internet in this area is needed to help the traveler find what is avail able along with pamplets. There are wineries and apple orchards nearby. Thne area is loaded with opportunites. Such a shame to see this attraction being allowed to go by the wayside.