Looking For A New, And Unusual, Career? Head To Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

The National Park Service is seeking someone to lead guided tours through the historic buildings of the Kennecott mill in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska.

Considering a change of career, and looking for something quite unusual? Consider heading to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska to oversee guided tours of the historic buildings at Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986, the Kennecott oepration is "considered the best remaining example of early 20th Century copper mining," according to the park.

The primary service to be provided is guided interpretive tours within the historic district.

You can find information concerning the financial terms of the contract, utilization and operating information, a market area overview and the selection factors used to award the contract by visiting this site.

The Prospectus is available for download at http://www.concessions.nps.gov/prospectuses.htm. Hard copies are available upon request.Please contact Mark Keogh, Concessions Manager, at 907-822-7223 to request a copy.


Hmmmmmm. Interpretation by a concessionaire. Interesting concept.

Is this a move toward privatization of parks? Doesn't sound like it. Does anyone know if there are similar operations anyplace else? Is this new at Wrangell? Will this replace interpretive rangers or serve as a supplement?

The first thing that popped into my head when I read this was the specter of interpreters at the Bryce Canyon visitor center a few years ago who were all wearing Ford Motor Company T-shirts.

I checked the links provided in the article but they didn't provide answers to the questions I have. Can we get more information on this? With what was provided here, I don't know whether to get ready to fight or to say, "Hey, good idea!"

Concessionaire Interpretation is a daily occurance, Lee. Often, extremely well done with many significant visitor breakthroughs connecting to the very best of what these great places can convey, safely. What I heard from your "interesting concept" header was a bit of NPS snobery. Many individuals that work for corporate concessionaires go far past the minimum requirements of "processing visitors." What is dissapointing is that many times those that do their job far and above the minimum are not supported in a way that they can stay doing an exceptional job. Amazing what a little respect can do in visitor contacts which can be supported by a little bit of it trickling down from management. It all originates from the top, I believe. Lee, I just took exception to your statement although it's certainly a common impression by some in the NPS community.

I lived and worked in Kennecott for a summer, and the park has both NPS interpretation and a concessionaire that provides such a service. The concessionaire would give tours of the copper mill, as well as the nearby glacier. The tours of the copper mill have been going on for years, and provide another option for visitors (especially those that book packages through Kennecott Glacier Lodge). They seemed to do a pretty good job of explaining the operation of the site. I think NPS should never lose its intrepretive function, but at this remote site in the biggest (and of the most remote) national parks, its important to have additional options for visitors.

I'm not sure if it's "snobbery" or a reaction to some fear that there are many out there who are ready to do all they can to turn our parks into for profit theme parks. This was a new thing to me and I was surprised by it.

Although in other cases, I've thoroughly enjoyed some concession run adventures -- particularly in Yellowstone on some Xanterra winter snow coach tours. As long as there is adequate quality control, I usually have no beef. The Ford Motor Company debacle at Bryce came about as a direct result of Bush's efforts at privatization. It was NOT good. I think we need to be very wary of attempts to turn our parks into cash cows for anyone.

I'll also have to admit that there have been a number of times when I've come away from visiting a park with a sour taste. When I have a good experience, I try to share it here. When the experience is not good, I usually try to find a way to contact the park's senior staff. Y'know, the few times I've felt a need to do that seem to have produced some good results. Praise publicly, criticize privately. But I do believe that ALL of us -- whether we are ardently pro-NPS or otherwise -- have a responsibility to try to do all we can to protect and preserve (and when needed, improve) a true national asset.

I think it all depends. I too remember the Ford logos at Bryce Canyon, although I thought they were actually smaller than the logo of the nonprofit organization that was sponsored by Ford. I would say that it seemed rather commercial in nature to have that logo.

Quite often I've gone on "naturalist guided walks" where the tour was conducted by someone employed or volunteering at a nonprofit associated with the park. Did that at Grand Teton. A lot of the events listed on park calendars are led by personnel not employed by NPS.

At Yosemite the regular morning snowshoe walks are guided by a ranger. If you chose to try one of the special "full moon" deals the guide is someone supplied by DNC. The calendar of events include videos and movies presented by DNC.

Heck - if you take the Shark Valley Tram tour at Everglades, some of the tours are guided by a ranger sitting in the front seat. I missed the last one, and our guide was the driver, who was actually pretty entertaining.

I'd like to nominate many of the guides that lead the concession Mule Rides into and out of the Grand Canyon over two days and the shorter rides from the North Rim. Yes they do a lot of interpretation in one of the most dramatic and at times, brutal environments. The visitors have so much personal equity in the experience in real terms that I feel there is a real bond and respect gained for the Canyon, their mules and the professionalism of their guides. Most often far better than they could have expected. I know many NPS Interp Rangers and the best of them try and succeed in facilitating those same outcomes and only mention the concession end of Interpretation and specifically the Canyon Mule Rides because there has been an effort to marginalize their presence. When riders at the end of their two day adventure in the Inner Canyon commonly praise the adventure as the best experience of their lives, I'd say a good thing has been accomplished.

I touched the edges of another topic here but the point is that concessionaires can and do have very capable interpretive personnel and should be valued by their employers and deserve respect by NPS for their efforts to facilitate connections to these special places.

After reading other comments here and a little more research and thought, I think I'm ready to say, "Hey, Good Idea!"

Although I've throroughly enjoyed some other concession interpretation, this somehow caught me off guard and I failed to associate the things I've experienced with this one. Perhaps it was because this one didn't seem to be associated with such things as mule rides or snow coach tours.

But on the other hand, I'd hate to see interpretive rangers entirely replaced by concession employees.

Agreed, Lee.

Supporting all the Interps, Concession and NPS, in meaningful ways only furthers their giftings/abilities to help facilitate visitor's connections to these historical places and landscapes, in real terms. A Win-Win for everyone, I believe.

In the real world, and speaking of the rubber-meets-the-road level, it is not uncommon for folks to move horizontally. One year a commercial tour bus driver, the following year take a job as a seasonal interp ranger. The local lore in the individual's internal hard disk pretty well transfers.

The difference is in the supervision, in the focus, and in the organizational support, I believe. I've seen tour bus drivers winging it, shooting purely from fancy or guestimate, but in most cases I think the rangers are held to a higher standard. Living in a park and being married to a park employee, I have friends on all sides of this equation. Milage, of course, varies.

I agree, Rick.

As I work in a park that does not have concessionaire interpretation I have little experience in the matter, the one issue I have with it is the cost. What is the cost if any? I understand that for some cases a small charge might be needed to pay for the gas/hay for whatever you are touring on but hikes and regular programs should be free.

And yet, Ranger Paul, there seems to be an increasing tendency in parks to charge for hikes and other programs led by NPS interpreters. Mesa Verde's ruins tours and Great Basin's Lehman Cave come to mind immediately.

Maybe, given the budget crunches we all face, those fees will just have to become part of life for park visitors. Those fees, so far at least, are about equal to the cost of popcorn and some watery soda pop in a movie theater. (And what you see in a park is almost certainly a lot more wholesome than anything Hollywood has produced lately.)

Lee Dalton:
And yet, Ranger Paul, there seems to be an increasing tendency in parks to charge for hikes and other programs led by NPS interpreters. Mesa Verde's ruins tours and Great Basin's Lehman Cave come to mind immediately.
I don't know of any NPS cave "tours" (I've walked unguided through caves free) that have been free. I've been on the NPS ranger guided tour at Timpanagos Caves, as well as the nonprofit-guided tour at Crystal Cave in Sequoia NP. Even the latter had to be purchased at an NPS visitor center directly from the information desk manned by a ranger.

Of course this could turn into something completely different if for-profit companies staked a concession. There's Boyden Cavern in Sequoia NF, where a private company staked a claim to operate a tour, and a private for-profit operator has been operating there for almost 100 years. They've got a standard Forest Service sign over the entrance, and many people would be under the impression that it's directly operated by the federal government. Of course the Forest Service has a different operating model than NPS. However, a lot of people visiting Boyden Cavern are visiting NPS areas and don't really know the difference. For the most part I thought the experience was pretty similar even if it was a for-profit operator.

I subscribe to the old school idea that lack of money should not keep anyone from an interpretive program. I recently saw a park charging for its Junior Ranger program and thought that was crazy. The people who will pay for interpretation are the people who have already been “reached”. Most interpretation (in my opinion) is motivating people to want to learn more. People who pay to come to programs are already motivated to learn more, not that they should not be welcomed at programs but we have already accomplished our goals with them.

As for the NPS charging for cave tours, I give cave tours so I can explain why we charge. We charge out of convenience, we only have a limited number of spots available and we need a way of managing the tours. If we simply offered free coupons we would then have to worry more about how early to offer them for the tours, 1 hour beforehand, 2 hours before hand, a day beforehand, a week beforehand? It would get out of hand quickly and we would have people who placed reservations that would not show up and we could not give their place away, people are a lot more likely to redeem a ticket they paid for than a free coupon. And the amount of money we make each day is so insignificant we would never make more than $150 a day. That certanly does not pay for the NPS cost of the tour.