Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes

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Accommodations in Curry Village will change with the next concessions contract/David and Kay Scott

The recently issued prospectus for operation of the majority of Yosemite National Park’s concession facilities includes several significant changes related to the park’s lodging. Lodging, a major revenue generator for the winning bidder (and the National Park Service), is expected to generate from $52-$57 million in 2016, the year the new lease kicks in. This is approximately twice the amount the concessionaire is expected to generate in food and beverage sales during the same year. Retail sales generate approximately the same revenue as food and beverage. The new contract will be for 15 years with a beginning date of March 1, 2016.

The most significant lodging change is to occur at Curry Village, where the Park Service is planning to replace 52 canvas tents with cabins that include bathrooms. This will reduce the number of tent cabins at Curry to 351 and increase the number of cabins with bathrooms to 98. Curry also has 14 cabins without bathrooms and 18 motel-type rooms.

The prospectus also calls for removing 34 tent cabins (these are duplex units, meaning 17 structures would be removed) at Housekeeping Camp, leaving 232 of these units. In the High Sierra Camps, half the 22 tents at Merced Lake and four beds at Glen Aulin are to be removed.

The prospectus includes an especially stiff franchise fee of 8.6 percent of the concessionaire’s annual gross revenues. Assuming the new cabins at Curry Village are completed on schedule before the end of the contract’s seventh year, the franchise fee will increase by an additional six-tenths of 1 percent, resulting in a fee of over 9 percent. This compares with NPS fees of 4 percent at Mesa Verde and Sequoia/Kings Canyon national parks, 6 percent at Mount Rainier National Park, and 1 percent at Glacier Bay National Park.

In addition to a 9.2 percent franchise fee, the concessionaire is to pay an annual 2 percent repair-and-maintenance fee. Adding the California sales tax of 7.5 percent, a Mariposa County sales tax of .5 percent, a Mariposa County Transient Occupancy Tax of 10 percent, and a Mariposa County Tourism Business Improvement District Assessment of 1 percent, results in a guest at Yosemite Lodge paying $240 for a room (the price listed on the DNC site for an October stay), $27 of which represents NPS fees, plus another $45 in various sales taxes. Thus, a family staying in Yosemite Lodge will be paying over $70 a night in fees and taxes. An Ahwahnee stay would entail well over $100 per night in fees and taxes.

While the park’s main concession facilities are in Yosemite Valley, the prospectus also covers concession operations at Badger Pass, Crane Flat, Glacier Point, Tuolumne Meadows, Wawona, White Wolf, and the High Sierra Camps. According to the NPS prospectus, each location “…. presents unique opportunities and challenges….”


So much for ordinary working folks to be able to afford to stay anywhere in Yosemite. Not that we haven't been priced out long since.

And they ought to just spend the time and money cleaning up what they've got. God knows they haven't been doing that for years.

I agree megaera--- it's got so expensive to stay in the parks these days--and they are trying to get the American public interested in preserving the parks?? How can people appreciate them if they can't afford to stay in them??

I agree megaera--- it's got so expensive to stay in the parks these days--and they are trying to get the American public interested in preserving the parks?? How can people appreciate them if they can't afford to stay in them??

I'm sorry, why do tens of millions of dollars go to a private corporation every single year as they are granted a monopoly on the basic services inside our flagship national park?

"Thus, a family staying in Yosemite Lodge will be paying over $70 a night in fees and taxes."

Right.... That's $70 to "us" and $170 to the Delaware North Corporation.

So, ask yourself: Why is it so expensive to stay in the park?

I'm staying in Yosemite next month for $20 a night. I expect every penny will be well worth it.

The Yosemite Campers Coalition (www.yosemitevalleycampers.org- we do not accept contributions nor donations) has been active for 35 years in trying to preserve affordable family friendly auto based drive-in camping in Yosemite Valley. We have an online petition plus 500 hand gathered petitions to put back the flood damaged campgrounds from 1997, delivered to the YNPS and they have ignored us, after receiving 17 million tax dollars from Congress to repair the flood damaged campsites . We have taken our mission to congress on two occassions on our own time and our own dime. The YNPS is as "crooked as a dogs hind let." Whatever they spend our money on is not for the folks. We have had small wins and one big win.......the decade old lawsuit. Had the Merced River Plan not been overturned in its original form, more of existing campsites and even campgrounds would have been eliminated. There is a mission here by big $$$$ powers to bring in the foreigners on big tour busses and charge the big rates. We have kept track of the DNC rate sheet for a decade and watched the rates across the board soar.

The mission is "Pay To Play."

Please contact District 4 U.S. Congressman Tom McClintock who represents Yosemite for the people and express your concerns about the cost of visitation and by all means, sign the epetition. He is our last hope.

Not all of us can camp, ecbuck. And $20 for a *campsite* is ridiculous, anyway.

What I wish is for a system of hostels in our parks, the way they do in Canada and the UK (those are the ones I have personal experience with) and other countries.

Not all of us can camp

Oh Megaera, I am so sorry. What terrible infliction do you have that you can't camp? I have never met anyone like that before.

And $20 for a *campsite* is ridiculous

Really? It cost me more than that for a parking spot in many places. A NP front country campsite you get access, bear box, fire ring, picnic table, ranger programs, water, security, toilets and the great outdoors and $20 is "ridiculous"?

I find myself finally agreeing with EC. Some of the new thermarests are more comfy than most hotel matresses. I just dont get the campingphobes that need cheap motel 6 style accommodations inside national parks. I don't see how that's even feasible in a small area like Yosemite Valley. If you go into nature, should one expect all the amentities for cheap? I don't see how it can happen like that. Simple supply and demand.

I find myself finally agreeing with EC.

Uh oh. I think I may need to rethink my postion ;)

Actually Gary, I think you and I may agree more than you think. Its the presentation that sometimes can be grating - on both sides.

Actually an interesting story on the topic - at least to me. I am a big camper. Hundreds of nights in a tent. My wife - not so much. I convinced her to go camping in Yellowstone. The deal was 2 days in the park then one day in a motel and then back to the park. We spent the first two nights in a tent in Grant Village and then after a day of fishing on the Lamar went to a motel in Cooke city. The Mrs. couldn't wait to get back to the Park. The accomodations were better in our tent than the motel in Cooke City - which cost 4x as much - as was the food and amenites. At $20(actually $29.58 including tax for an upcoming Aug 2014 stay) the NP front country campsites are a bargain and I can't imagine why anyone that could leave their home couldn't stay in one.

Some of us have done tons of camping, and can't any more. I'm not going to bother to run down my "terrible inflictions" for public dissection, but believe me - if I could, I would. When my wife and I got together a decade or so ago we tried many alternatives, but the state of my arthritis and other ailments is just prohibitively painful. That should not mean that I'm priced out of enjoying my national parks.

I wish I'd aged smarter and more gracefully, but stupidly I did my best to use myself up early. I envy our older statesmen here in this forum, still taking on hikes and projects at ages even older than myself.

I'm noticing some degree of able bodied versus not able bodied in this discussion, with some chest thumping on the part of the able. That's unfortunate. What has happened to me with wear and tear is the starting point of life for many Americans. I'd like to think all could get a benefit from our parks, and I hate that economics is making that less likely.

Rick, I can see your and Magera's point and I definitely think going to a park should be an affordable experience well below what it costs to go into an amusement park, etc. I've seen this debate many times before, and I have seen many call for non-profits to run the lodging, instead of corporate entities on our public lands. That way the profits go back into the park. Maybe that could cut costs down on lodging, but on the same token I cringe when I hear the call for more hostels, more hotels, more cabins, and more entities inside Parks to accomodate more and more people. The shear numbers of the 7 billion human swarm will overwhelm these spaces if those needs are met. I've been to Yosemite Valley a few times, and I always felt all that development was too heavy handed in its current iteration, and I never stayed in the Valley when I was there. I'm a believer that lodging opportunites should be developed outside of the parks.

And i'll probably be in your shoes too when I hit your age.

I have seen many call for non-profits to run the lodging, instead of corporate entities on our public lands.

And there is a reason its not done. Corporate entities provide a better product at a lower cost than do non-profits.

I wish I'd aged smarter and more gracefully, but stupidly I did my best to use myself up early.

So because you failed to take care of yourself you are entitled to low cost hotel rooms in a National Park? Were is Lee with his entitlement protests?

Sorry, I don't buy it. How much of the Park are you actually going to see and enjoy if you can't even move around a campsite? What possible movement is necessary at a campsite that isn't required in your own home or 5 star hotel?

Finally, there are things I could never do or can't do now. I certainly don't expect the world to alter its course to accomodate me.

And there is a reason its not done. Corporate entities provide a better product at a lower cost than do non-profits.

I disagree with you on that, especially when there is not competition involved. Most corporate entities are out to make a big profit and maximize revenues. Non-profits have much different directives because of the limitations placed on their organizations. But, I don't know if there are comparable metrics to prove your case. I've never researched to see if there are any non-profits running lodging in any National Parks. My guess is there are not..

I will revisit a question I raised two weeks ago:

But were national parks intended to operate as profit centers with no ceiling, or as a public commons? Companies shouldn't have to operate at a loss, but what ceiling should be kept within sight in a park?

And really, EC, there are many, many folks who for a wide variety of physical reasons can't sleep on the ground in a tent. It doesn't always have to deal with how much or how little they can move around.

And it also doesn't always have anything to do with how much or how little an individual has taken care of themselves. Accidents happen that greatly restrict an individual's abilities.

This isn't about asking the world to alter its course. This is about the national parks as a public commons supported by our tax dollars and whether they are affordable to those taxpayers.

I would not pay $240 to stay in a cabin in Yosemite, but apparently, there are plenty of people who will, although I will go to Ahwahnee at least once in my lifetime. That's what the market will bear. If one really wants to lower the cost of cabins in Yosemite, the only real solution would be to build a lot more of them to bring the supply in line with the current demand, which probably would not really fly these days. So, there we have it: a good in high demand and restricted supply. Of course, there's always the solution of going somewhere else. Plenty of public land to hike on.

I disagree with you on that

You can disagree all you want but if it weren't the case, why would the NPS be outsourcing? If a non-profit could operate at a lower cost and provide higher returns to the NPS, why would anyone in the NPS even consider outsourcing?

And really, EC, there are many, many folks who for a wide variety of physical reasons can't sleep on the ground in a tent.

Then use a cot. As I said before, there are many things I can't do. I don't expect the world to change its course to accomodate me.

EC, there's a definite lack of compassion in your response.

Beyond that, here's an interesting point from a Forbes article:

Hence, to ask that the government be run like a business is tantamount to asking that the government turn a profit. The problem in a nutshell, is that not everything that is profitable is of social value and not everything of social value is profitable.


Again, I have to ask, were national parks intended to operate as profit centers with no ceiling, or as a public commons? Companies shouldn't have to operate at a loss, but what ceiling should be kept within sight in a park?

Your avoidance of this question, twice now, seems to indicate you believe the parks shouldn't be a public commons and that companies should be able to charge whatever the market bears.

Your avoidance of this question, twice now,

I believe I answered this when you first poised the question but I will answer again. I believe the parks should be operated to provide the best experience at the lowest cost. I believe a competitive bidding process accomplishes that goal. If accomodations can command multi hundred dollar nightly price tags and those dollars fund other operations, I see no problem. I do believe there should be an effort to provide lower cost facilities - i.e frontcountry and backcountry campgrounds but I see no "right" for someone to get a discounted price on a high end room just because it is located in a park.

EDIT My prior response when the orginal question was posed:

Kurt, if you are talking about basic access to the park then there may be some rationale for a "ceiling". Perhaps rates could be set as we do with public utilities, but then we probably would not have the most efficient of operations.

At $80 for unlimited access, $5 for a back country campground and $20 for an rv/tent site, I don't believe we are pricing anyone out of the Parks nor is anyone making unconscionable profits.

When it comes to luxury accomodations in the park - the first question might be why are they there. After that, I would have to ask why should anyone have any more right to a luxury accomodation in a Park then in Hawaii or Martha's Vineyard or Vegas.


The main issue here, at least for Yosemite, is that more people want to enjoy it than the park can accomodate. The Ahwahnee hotel is basically booked year round. The camping spots all get booked months in advance as soon as they become available for reservation. So, we can either let money regulate the demand, since we can't build anymore supply (or can we? :) ). Or we can force prices to be lower than today, and have people frustrated because they can get in due to everything being booked way in advance. Either way, it won't please everybody.

The government employees on this site don't like the idea of market based pricing because that reeks too much of pricing out the poorest (although I doubt that a lot of actually poor folks do the trip to Yosemite anyhow). Obviously, I think that market pricing is the best solution. Actually, it'd be interesting to have the NPS run an auction on a few campsites during the high season to see what people are really willing to pay to camp in Yosemite.

There is one other issue at work in the question of camping vs. using "indoor" lodging. Air travel may be a hassle these days, but visitors who are making a cross-country (or international) trip to visit places like Yosemite often find time constraints and costs make it impractical to drive. It's simply not feasible for most air travelers to haul the amount of camping gear needed for a reasonably comfortable stay (such as ec's suggested cot)... and thus they end up paying for a room vs. a campsite.

In such cases, it's unfortunate there aren't more affordable options in places like Yosemite. There's something to be said for the ability to be stay within just a few minutes of prime views in Yosemite Valley at sunrise or sunset, but you'll pay dearly for that option, unless you camp.

At some parks, the high prices charged by concessioners do help nearby local businesses. On a recent trip to Glacier and Yellowstone, we opted to stay in small, family-run lodgings just outside the park, and were happier with both the price and the product.

Our conversation with several local proprieters also reminded us of the reality of doing business in areas such as Glacier with very short tourist seasons: they have only about two months to earn the bulk of their income for the entire year, and that does impact the price of everything from lodging to meals.

On a recent trip to Glacier and Yellowstone, we opted to stay in small, family-run lodgings just outside the park, and were happier with both the price and the product.

Obviously that didn't dimminish your visit.

Nope, but if one of those lake-view rooms at the Many Glacier Hotel had been more reasonably priced, I'd have given it a lot more consideration :-)

more reasonably priced

According to whom? Obviously since the hotel sells out on a regular basis, someone thinks the prices are reasonable.

In this land of great economic inequality, one might venture that a lot of folks feel they're unreasonable.

But, of course, the issue really is supply and demand, and without creating more lodging in the Yosemite Valley, the pricing will continue to creep upwards and place an overnight stay out of reach for more and more.

It has to be a tough issue for the Park Service to deal with in light of concerns that the parks are losing relevancy with Americans.

There are many interesting and valid points in this discussion. And the diversity of opinion shows why Yosemite has always been an emotional topic. I am a camper. To me nothing is better than being in nature. We all have different reasons for going and we choose how to experience Yosemite. My concern is that access to the national park is being limited by the refusal of NPS to restore the flood damaged campsites. I am not poor, nor that affluent to rent lodging in the valley For many young families with small children, camping is the only way. High end lodging will always be there for those who can afford it. But we must insure family auto based drive in camping doesn't become just another number to drop to the bottom line. Yosemite belongs to ALL the people, and affordable access must be preserved.

In this land of great economic inequality,

In this land, even if you are at the bottom of the ladder you are far richer than most the rest of the world. A family of 4 with income of $15,000 is in the top 25% of the world's earners. Income inequality is a meaningless measure on its own. I would much rather make $15,000 and have my boss make 15 million than make $5,000 and have my boss make $50,000.

This land is a land of great economic opportunity. If you want to stay in a fancy hotel in the park, go out and earn the money to do just that. Instead, too many are sitting back and waiting for their handouts which is exactly why inequality has increased under the current administration.


Well, now you're going down an entirely different rabbit hole, one that would take this thread in an entirely different direction. Google "income inequality" and you'll come up with 13 million results in two-thirds of a second.

Reasons/beliefs vary tremendously, some related to education levels and some to whom you marry, and rather than take this thread elsewhere by getting down in the weeds about them, I'll leave it at that.

I am with you on that Kurt, but you are the one that brought it up. I will say no more on the subject - of course unless someone else does and needs to be corrected.

Thank you Traveler on your viewpoint on this issue. It is interesting to note that the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite, the Loop trip that is, is already on a lottery. Same may someday be true for lodging and camping. We are not there yet, certainly not in the off season. This is public land. the lottery gives each person a chance, lets hope it never comes to who can afford to pay the highest price. It is even more reason why we, the owners of the public land demand our agency people set reasonable prices, if the private sector can not see a profit in that, there are non-profits that can, it almost happened, but that is another story. By the way, I did work with park concessionaires, the profits in parks like Yosemite are enormous along with top executive salary and bonus pay, working conditions, benefits are much much less than desirable for most of their employees. It is a disgrace. EC, just curious, who is going to do the correcting if further comments are posted?

Ron, obviously it would be me, with my opinions and corresponding citations that would be doing the "correcting".

You say the profits are "enormous". What is the profit margin? What is the return on assets? If non-profits can do it more efficiently and at a lower cost, why does the NPS outsource? I asked someone (Gary?) that question earlier. No response. Perhaps you have one.

Frankly, I wonder how a lottery system fairer? Because we all have an equal chance of not getting it? I agree that it's our land, but a lottery hardly seems like a great solution to me.

In reading the Business Opportunity document of the prospectus I found this on pg 19:

"The Service takes into account the Concessioner’s expenses in providing the VTS under the NPS rate approval program. Under this program, the Service permits the Concessioner to include a VTS addition to its approved rates for visitor use of Concession Facilities and services to recover the costs of providing the VTS, because the comparables against which rates are determined usually do not provide as extensive a transportation amenity to their guests. The Service reviews the VTS operating expenses annually as part of the process for setting the rate schedule to support the VTS. Additional information regarding the VTS is located in Contract Exhibit B-6 VTS Operating Plan."


Thank you EC, I read your post more carefully, I get it.

On your questions, you might want to contact the concessions office in Yosemite National Park. They can give you the most current figures. On the issue of "non-profits, I will grant you it is complicated. If my memory serves me correctly, when Music Corporation of America decided to sell out in the late 1980s, they had a buyer from Japan, but the DOI Secretary (Mr. Manual Lujan) at the time decreed a NP concession could not be sold to a foreign country. Things got complicated, the legal interest in the some of the facilities belonged to MCA, etc. Perhaps Alfred Runte can fill in here. In any case it was not until Bruce Babbitt became head of DOI that solutions were found including a large corporation who was interested, Delaware North. A family owned corporation, the head of which was a close ally and financial supporter of Mr.Babbitt in both of his runs for Arizona Governor and his short lived bid for a presidential nomination.

Must keep this short, but much history here, this set the stage for much of what is happening today, including excluding a non-profit that was supported by a Park Superintendent, the environmental community, etc. Financial concerns were big issues, paying off the legal interest in MCA facilities, toxic blooms from the gas stations in Yosemite Valley, increased franchise fees, etc, but the corker was Delaware North's willingness to clean up the service station balloons from the underground gas storage tanks. All of the above was something the park had no money to do and no congressional support for. It must be remembered we, the citizens, own all the structures in the park including the Ahwahnee Hotel. The NPS does make much from entrance fees, little from camping fees. By 2005 (again my memory, but close), the Yosemite budget roughly broke down to about 24 million base congressional funding, 40 million gross in fee collection, 5 million from the City of San Francisco and donations from the Yosemite Fund (now the Conservancy) of 5 to 12 million a year depending on fund raising on approved projects. There were some smaller entries as well. It is an accounting nightmare with strings attached to each funding source. For example the San Francisco money can only be spent in the Tuolumne River drainage. Fee money has many restrictions also.

As has been pointed out, Congress likes this, it fits well with our current mania for the Neo-Liberal privatization economic policies of the last 30 years (Friedman/Greenspan) and allows Congress to downplay the lack of funding for the NPS infrastructure issues. Both parties have had a hand in this. Fees are a big deal including the concession franchise fee, bed tax fees to surrounding counties, etc. Bottom line EC, money talks. This is only my recollection of some of the history of the non-profit issue, others are welcome to weigh in correct, etc.

EC, there are indeed many things you cannot do.

One of them, as has been amply demonstrated over and over again, is to feel compassion.

In general I have been all for letting the free market dictate costs with some exceptions. National parks would be one of those exceptions. I am a camper too and if I had my way would love to see the only lodging be for people with their own tents. That said, I understand camping isnt for everyone and do feel that lodging in some of the parks is rediculously expensive. I think it is a slipery slope if we let those who can afford xyz dictate what will be in the parks. What's next? A different fee for various hiking trails? Want to see a spectacular water fall without crowds it's $100 per hiker vs. the little falls with crowds at $10? Want to be at an overlook during sunrise or sunset? There will be an additional fee for that. I fear income inequality has gotten so out of wack that pretty soon free markets wont work any longer unless you call another civil war part of a natural correction.


You ask me to contact Yosemite to answer my profit questions. That just shows you don't know those answers yet you are eager to call their profits "enormous". I believe you have made an assumption which is likely to have little validity.

As to corporate vs non-profit you provide some interesting history but you admit that financial concerns were a major issue. Those financials provided by Delaware North were part of their costs. The bottom line is they were able to provide equal or better services to the Park with more attractive financials for the Park. Further these franchises are rebid creating a competitive market that keeps margins down. Finally, you imply there was some "insider" activity between Babbit and Delaware North in the Yosemite award. However, the vast majority of concession operations in the Parks across the country are outsourced. Is every one of our Parks tainted by corruption? Or is it because these corporations can provide a better product with more attractive financials to the parks and their guests. I'm firmly in the camp of the latter.

Oh Rick, I have compassion. Just not for those that self-destruct.

Thinking outside the box...it would be interesting to split a Park lodge in half, each half run by a seperate entity like non profit vs private company. If anything else you would hope the direct compitition would make them both better. It could also be two private companies.

I know this would not help supply and demand. And it would possibly make someone think they chose the wrong half. But it would provide for a good study...LOL

EC, the last figures I saw were the gross of roughly 125,000,000, that in the early 1990s when the MCA contract was rebid. Delaware North got some freebees also, the legal (I believe the correct term was possessory interest) in certain structures was paid for by a convoluted loan arrangement by a third party to the tune of about roughly 100 million by the NPS. I do not off hand remember the details. The NPS is paying this off. You may want to look into it. I might add that the current President of concession operations in Yosemite is an acquaintance, a really fine person, just first rate. This is not an issue of personalities, but rather who is best able to maintain the public commons, either directly or in the case of contracts, oversight and enforcement. Of course this is the raging economic political debate of our generation.

Regarding the service and financial advantages of the private sector contracts, it is highly debatable that the park and and its visitors are getting the service they deserve at reasonable cost. Our parks, just like the rest of the nations public infrastructure are a governmental responsibility, and we are not doing a very good job right now of taking care of it. President Reagan's campaign slogan "the Government is the problem" is having its effect. President Clinton did not help things much in his second term with his "reinventing government" initiatives. Everyone benefits from the maintaining of our public facilities from parks, roads, airports, schools, etc. including our private sector entities. I understand where you are coming from, but I simply disagree with your position. The balance is out of control, it least in my own view. As pointed out by the excellent "Traveler" post, somethings things cannot be measured by money/profit margins alone.

the last figures I saw were the gross of roughly 125,000,000,

And gross revenues means absolutely nothing. What was their net profit? What was their investment? You can't claim "enormous profits" without knowing those numbers.

Our parks, just like the rest of the nations public infrastructure are a governmental responsibility, and we are not doing a very good job right now of taking care of it.

I think you are confusing two issues. One is who can run the concessions better. In my mind (and apparently the NPS's) it is no doubt the private sector. The other issues is funding to maintain the assets (natural and man made) of the Parks. Indeed that is a federal responsiblity financially (though the work could be outsourced) and like you I would like to see more money going to the Parks. But that money has to come from somewhere. I believe it should come by reducing other programs that the Feds shouldn't be involved with in the first place not just raising the deficit or inflicting higher taxes. We need to get our budget in order.

From the Labor Environment section(pg 37):

"Two current collective bargaining agreements cover the Existing Concessioner’s employees: one with UNITE HERE! Union Local 19 of San Jose, California, (408) 321-9019, covering all service workers, and the other with the General Teamsters Local #386 of Modesto, California, (209) 526-2755), covering commercial drivers, mechanics, warehouse, and maintenance employees."

Would these unions really want to have to negotiate with multiple entities operating various concessions in the park?

Also, in the business opportunity document there are a lot of detailed projections for gross revenue for the various departments starting on page 19.


Gross receipts for the last 3 years were between $129-132M.


Wow! The Park gets a 9 1/2 % cut. The S&P 500 hasn't seen that kind of annual profit margin in at least 20 years - if ever. Talk about "enormous profits".