Recent comments

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   1 day 9 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   1 day 10 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   1 day 11 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   1 day 13 hours ago

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

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   1 day 14 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   1 day 14 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   1 day 15 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   1 day 16 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   1 day 16 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   1 day 17 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   1 day 19 hours 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.

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   1 day 19 hours ago

    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.

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   1 day 20 hours ago

    more reasonably priced

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

  • Exploring The Parks: Oregon National Historic Trail In Wyoming   1 day 20 hours ago

    Welllll, you might be right, John. Some sources indicate early emigrants might have tried the Conestoga before realizing it was too big and bulky for the trek. Thus it gave rise to the Prairie Schooner.

    That said, I'd agree an edit is needed. Thanks.

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   1 day 20 hours ago

    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 :-)

  • Exploring The Parks: Oregon National Historic Trail In Wyoming   1 day 20 hours ago

    Nobody took a Conestoga wagon down the Oregon Trail in the 1840s and 1850s.

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   1 day 21 hours ago

    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.

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   1 day 22 hours ago

    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.

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   1 day 22 hours ago

    Kurt,

    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.

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   1 day 22 hours ago

    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.

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   1 day 22 hours ago

    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.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/johntharvey/2012/10/05/government-vs-business/

    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.

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   1 day 22 hours ago

    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.

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   1 day 22 hours ago

    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?

  • Yosemite National Park Concession Prospectus Includes Significant Lodging Changes   1 day 23 hours ago

    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.

  • Arizona Man Busted For Organizing 300-Hiker Rim-to-Rim Crossing Of Grand Canyon National Park   2 days 5 min ago

    I'm curious if this was really the 23rd such outing and If so, what was it about this year that the park service decided to take action? I recently read a similar story about a well known and long held race which goes through death valley that the park service all of a sudden decided wasn't appropriate (badwater marathon). I certainly agree we shouldn't start opening our parks to anyone who wants to conduct a race (or any other event) that causes undue disruption or a negative impact. Given a choice, I wouldn't hike the canyon on the same day as an additional 300 people if I knew in advance. That said, for some reason I have a much different opinion about the badwater situation. While I see the need to protect resources and maintain public access, in the case of the badwater marathon I see minimal impact and even the potential to promote the park if handled correctly.