Eighty years is a long time to operate a business in the same location, and when your lease isn't renewed, well, it can knock you off your feet. That must have been the feeling at the Acadia Corp. when informed they lost their contract at Acadia National Park.
Come March 2014 the company's business -- running the Jordan Pond House restaurant and retail operations at the Pond House, Cadillac Mountain, and Thunder Hole, which combined gross nearly $6 million annually -- is to be handed over to Dawnland, LLC.
At least that's the Park Service's plan. Some in Maine are questioning the agency's decision not to renew Acadia Corp.'s lease, and have mounted an online petition drive to have Congress investigate the process that awarded Dawnland the contract.
Congress already has a 60-day period to review the proposed contract.
Dawnland is a subsidiary created by Ortega National Parks, LLC, a family owned business that, until landing the Acadia contract, operated primarily in the West. The New Mexico-based company runs concessions at Death Valley National Park (Stovepipe Wells), Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (Volcano House), the Muir Woods Trading Company, the Carlsbad Caverns Trading Company, the Bandelier Trading Company, and the White Sands Trading Company. It also has two concessions at Gateway National Recreation Area in the greater New York-New Jersey metropolitan area (Silver Gull Beach Club and the Breezy Point Surf Club).
In announcing the awarding of the Acadia concessions, Dennis Reidenbach, the Park Service's Northeast Region director, said, "(W)e are excited to work with Dawnland, who will provide the exceptional services that visitors have come to expect at Acadia National Park. We also thank current concessioner Acadia Corporation for its role as a long-standing partner."
Under the terms of the 10-year contract, Dawnland is to offer a "wide selection of locally-sourced and sustainable food and beverage options, instituting new environmentally-friendly initiatives, and sourcing a high percentage of retail merchandise from local artists," a Park Service release said. "Tea and popovers will remain a tradition at the Jordan Pond House."
The Park Service solicited offers for the Acadia contract through a prospectus publicly released in July 2012. A Northeast Region-led panel of Park Service subject matter experts, none from Acadia National Park, reviewed all proposals.
In a petition drive launched on Moveon.org, however, supporters of the Acadia Corp. raise some questions into how the final decision was made and ask that the matter be investigated.
After 80 years of service to Acadia National Park, the locally owned Acadia Corporation's contract for vendor services with The National Park Service was terminated with no explanation. The contract was awarded to Ortega Family Enterprises, a New Mexico-based company with no ties to, or history with the area. Ortega is a controversial company that has used powerful lobbyists and money to evict another local business in San Fransisco's Golden Gate Park.
The petition, to be delivered to U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud if it reaches 5,000 signatures, had nearly 4,600 by Wednesday evening.
Members of Maine's congressional delegation have already told the Bangor Daily News that they were going to make some inquiries about the contracting process.
“It makes no sense that a long running company with roots in Maine would lose the concessions contract in Acadia in favor of a company from New Mexico,” Sen. King, who plans to meet with Park Service Director Jon Jarvis over the matter, told the newspaper. “It really comes down to a host region being treated with greater respect and consideration.”