Handling Of Acadia National Park's Concessions Contract Contested In Federal Claims Court

A hearing is set for next month over who will be serving popovers this summer at the Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park. Photo courtesy of The Acadia Corp.

The long-time concessionaire at Acadia National Park, saying a "flawed evaluation process" was used, is appealing the loss of its contract.

For eight decades The Acadia Corporation has handled the dining and retail operations at the Jordan Pond House, as well as retail operations atop Cadillac Mountain and at Thunder Hole. But last fall the National Park Service decided not to renew the Maine-based company's contract and instead went with a company from New Mexico.

That decision in October raised more than a few eyebrows in Maine, where members of the congressional delegation said they would discuss the matter with Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, and an on-line petition drive was launched in opposition. While the delegation wrote the director in November, he has yet to respond, a Park Service spokesman said late last week.

The Acadia Corporation has taken the matter to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., in a bid to retain the contract, and a hearing is coming up on February 14.

"The company reluctantly took this legal action in response to what we believe was a flawed evaluation process and contract award by the NPS," David Woodside, president of The Acadia Corp., said last week in releasing details of its appeal. "In making the decision to seek redress in this matter, the overwhelming support from our Maine Congressional delegation and the local communities weighed heavily in our decision to move forward with this action. We continue to place a high value on our many years of service to the National Park Service and seek to sustain this important partnership in the future."

The concessions contract is scheduled to be taken over in March by Dawnland, LLC, a subsidiary of 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).

The concessions decision was not made by Acadia officials, but rather by a Northeast Region-led panel of Park Service subject matter experts.

When it appealed that decision in November, The Acadia Corp. was given the panel's evaluation documents to review. Those documents, Mr. Woodside contends, showed Dawnland made commitments beyond what the Park Service was seeking in the new concessions contract, was awarded points in the evaluation process for those commitments, yet the Park Service did not include them in the eventual contract because they were either infeasable to implement "or of no value" to the agency.

The Acadia Corp. also maintains that some of the contract requirements made upon Dawnland can't be achieved because some of the foods mentioned are either not obtainable or illegal in Maine and New England. In one instance, the company claims, Dawnland proposed to "serve roe from a threatened or endangered fish," something contrary to sustainable practices and which indicates the review panel was "not competent to conduct an evaluation in this area."

If both contract proposals were weighed equally, the company argues, it would have had "a substantial chance" to retain the concessions contract. Instead, the Park Service decision was based on "significant errors, an abuse of discretion, and lacks a rational basis and was arbitrary."

"NPS clearly scuttled and downgraded much of Dawnland's proposal, which had been the very basis for the Panel giving it the highest score," states the appeal from The Acadia Corp.

While Maine's congressional delegation in November wrote Park Service officials in Washington about the matter, as of last week they had not received a response.