Recent comments

  • Making Sense Out Of National Park Visitation Statistics   4 weeks 4 hours ago

    While quite a few of the NPS visitation numbers are obviously "soft", some seem considerably inflated. For example, I am quite familar with both parks and am unable to believe that Olympic's annual visitation has actually been almost triple that of Mount Rainier in recent years. The parking lots at Rainier are far larger and I have never waited in a mile-long line to enter Olympic. Most Olympic attractions are also more than twice the driving time from local population centers in 'Pugetopolis' as Rainier.

    Both park's websites used to have links explaining their counting methodology, but I can no longer find them. Both used traffic counter figures multiplied by a persons/vehicle factor, which was then decreased by a percentage of 'Non-Recreational' visits. I think OLYM considerably undercounts non-recreational traffic where the US 101 loop passes through the park at Lake Crescent and the Kalaloch strip. They probably also count the same visitor vehicles multiple times as they turn up each spur road like Hurricane, Soleduc, and the Hoh. This may also occur at Rainier when a vehicle visits Paradise and Sunrise on the same day.

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   4 weeks 4 hours ago

    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".

  • Parks And Local Economies—Observations From Glacier National Park   4 weeks 4 hours ago

    No doubt the parks help their local communities. Whether this is additive to the economy overall or just draws business from other markets is still questionable But I am with you, their economic impact is not the reason for their existance.

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   4 weeks 5 hours ago

    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.

    http://concessions.nps.gov/docs/Prospectus/YOSE004-16/Prospectus%20Files...

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

    http://concessions.nps.gov/docs/Prospectus/YOSE004-16/Prospectus%20Files...

  • Parks And Local Economies—Observations From Glacier National Park   4 weeks 5 hours ago

    . . . for those who unfortunately feel the need to validate the worth of parks in terms of economics, it seems pretty clear that these national treasures are also the not-so-little economic "engines that could."

    Nice encapsulation.

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   4 weeks 5 hours ago

    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.

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   4 weeks 5 hours ago

    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.

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   4 weeks 5 hours ago

    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

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   4 weeks 5 hours ago

    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.

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   4 weeks 6 hours ago

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

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   4 weeks 7 hours ago

    Ron,

    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.

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   4 weeks 7 hours ago

    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.

  • Traveler's View: Anti-Government Politicians Bear Watching This Election Year   4 weeks 7 hours ago

    I am left wondering what would be considered "national purpose" and of "national interest." Who would decide?

    Surely we can get rid of the grasslands - no one goes there anyway. And why is the government in the forestry business anyway? We could pay off a lot of our debt if we just sold them all off. Deserts are just that - deserts. Nothing worthwhile in them, except some minerals in some locations and we could sell them, too. Imagine the money we could make if we sold all the Seashores to condo developers; that alone could sustain our economy for generations.

    So, we should keep national parks and monuments because they are 'pretty.' The National Mall can stay, but we should allow corporate sponsorship (The Walmart Capitol Building has a nice ring, yes?), sold to the highest bidder.

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   4 weeks 14 hours ago

    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.

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   4 weeks 15 hours ago

    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.

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   4 weeks 15 hours ago

    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."

    http://concessions.nps.gov/docs/Prospectus/YOSE004-16/Prospectus%20Files/YOSE004-16_Business_Opportunity.pdf

  • Photography In The National Parks: Leading Lines, Tight Compositions And One’s Point Of View   4 weeks 16 hours ago

    Thanks for your good article. Foreground makes such a big difference.

    jt

  • Traveler's View: Anti-Government Politicians Bear Watching This Election Year   4 weeks 19 hours ago

    If you Cruz, we all Luze!!!!!!!

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   4 weeks 19 hours ago

    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.

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   4 weeks 19 hours ago

    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.

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   4 weeks 21 hours ago

    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?

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   4 weeks 21 hours ago

    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.

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   4 weeks 22 hours ago

    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.

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   4 weeks 22 hours ago

    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.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/11/income-inequality-obama-bush_n_...

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   4 weeks 1 day ago

    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.