Recent comments

  • Xanterra Parks & Resorts Sues National Park Service Over Grand Canyon Contracts   1 week 3 days ago

    Obvious the LSI calculations are too high. If the assets were really worth that, the competing consessionaires would step up and pay it.

  • Grand Canyon National Park's Concessions Issue Impacting National Parks Nationwide   1 week 3 days ago

    Excellent points, tomp2. And so we are back again to history's basic point: Exactly what do we want our parks to be? Should they be profit centers or centers of preservation, and how can the two ever be fully reconciled? Certainly, as you point out, if I can afford $499 a night to stay at the Ahwahnee in Yosemite, I should be able to afford an additional $25 to help buy out the possessory interests there or anywhere else. Actually, this all started way back in the 1980s when General Host and TWA Services were running Yellowstone. They did such a poor job the great historic buildings were put in jeopardy, and Congress and the NPS had to start stepping in. At one point, 22 percent was going into restoring the buildings, although I would have to research again exactly how that worked. But I do believe it was being charged to the rooms and meals, and again, the great buildings have been saved and restored. On this issue, I actually believe the Park Service is trying to do its best. It just gets so frustrating when they don't come clean with the public. Educate the visitor. The visitor will understand, provided the method makes sense.

  • Grand Canyon National Park's Concessions Issue Impacting National Parks Nationwide   1 week 3 days ago

    Alfred--

    My impression is that Grand Canyon is merely the first, but the problem will hit all of the big parks with lodges as their existing contracts come up for renewal / bidding.

    My friendly amendment to your suggestion would be to put the $25 increase as an occupancy tax on the lodging, with lower increases in prices or fees to cover the stores, corrals, etc., instead of on the entrance fee. Aside from directing the fee increase toward those using the concessions & facilities, that might avoid the need for legeslation, which I'm pretty sure would be required to use rec fee (entrance) funds to buy out the concession facilities (the uses of rec fee are pretty restricted by law).

  • Grand Canyon National Park's Concessions Issue Impacting National Parks Nationwide   1 week 3 days ago

    Out of curiousity, do concessionaires pay (state) property taxes on the facilities? Do they depreciate them to count the depreciation against their operating profits for corporate taxes (normal business accounting for capital equipment)? Did either of those come up in the arbitration that arrived at the $165M?

    To me, 4% seems awfully low when viewed as a lease for the land under the facilities, let alone for the exclusive right to offer those services in the national park to a semi-captive audience.

    More broadly, the current situation is that once concessionares build facilities in parks, they essentially have a lock on the operating contracts, so there can't be any open competition to improve quality and constrain prices (barrier to entry is the economics term). [The same thing happens with hotels and amusement parks and convention centers on city park lands, it's not unique to NPS.] It would take ~$2-3B to buy all of the major facilities in all national parks, and then let the concessions be competitive bids to operate and maintain those facilities to serve the visiting public (and at a profit). Given the congressional mandate to introduce real competition, but no congressional funding to buy out the facilities to allow competitive bidding, I can see why someone would think that sweeping up / borrowing concession income from many parks to buy down much but not all of the facilities costs this year, then doing the same for the next big park in a couple of years, and then the next one, is a way to thread the needle. I don't think its a good decision, as it sure looks like the same problem will recur when the GRCA concession contract comes up for bid again in 5-10 years. With appreciation, the concession infrastructure would become an unending large suck on the NPS operating budget. If I understand correctly, the net result of the GRCA plan is redirecting most of the income parks receive from major concessions away from park operations and visitor service, and toward buying out the facilities. At a rate of $100M every couple of years, I'm not sure NPS will ever have purchased all of the facilities, as appreciation & inflation (& some facility construction & renovation) will happen at roughly the same rate. But, I don't have any better ideas, let alone better ideas that withstand confrontation with the real world, which to some extent includes that NPS needs the concession services there to serve the visiting public, so income to the parks is not the only consideration. Does anybody here have good and feasible ideas toward fostering competition to improve concession quality and value?

    I'm glad dealing with these issues is not my job: I'd be bad at it, and the stress of the no-win situation would kill me.

  • Grand Canyon National Park's Concessions Issue Impacting National Parks Nationwide   1 week 3 days ago

    Yes, excellent, Kurt. Again we see that the national parks are Big Business, and therein lies the rub. Historically, when the railroads held the concessions, they were essentially loss-leaders for the trains. The railroads were interested in filling seats and sleeping berths rather than pummeling the parks themselves to death. If the parks broke even, the railroads were satisfied, since the trains likely had made a profit. Now the parks themselves are asked to generate the revenue, including ever-expanding shoulder seasons. In the past, the hotels shut down soon after Labor Day, and the parks fell silent for the next nine months--with the exception of Grand Canyon, which attracted winter tourists to California. I sympathize with the Park Service's problem, but can hardly condone cannibalizing so many other parks. Why not simply double the entrance fee at Grand Canyon, which at $25 remains a steal? Inform the public where the money is going--and why. Surely, if visitors can afford $200 a night at some crumbling South Rim Hotel--and higher at El Tovar--and a helicpoter tour on top of that--they can afford $50 at the gate, and again, not impact every other park.

  • Reader Participation Day: Where Is The Best Microbrew In The National Park System?   1 week 3 days ago

    The Nantahala brewery in Bryson City NC has a decent IPA called Noonday. it's pretty refreshing after some hiking in the Deep Creek region.

  • Xanterra Parks & Resorts Sues National Park Service Over Grand Canyon Contracts   1 week 3 days ago

    If Xanterra lost all their contracts to Forever Resorts, the world would be a better place.

  • Grand Canyon National Park's Concessions Issue Impacting National Parks Nationwide   1 week 3 days ago

    Looks to me like Grand Canyon super Dave Uberuaga has upped his game from shaking down concessioners at Mount Rainier to pickpocketing 88 other national park units!

    http://www.adventure-journal.com/2011/10/former-rainier-park-chief-under...

    The lack of transparency is typical and disgraceful. Thanks are due Kurt for his FOIA request.

  • Grand Canyon National Park's Concessions Issue Impacting National Parks Nationwide   1 week 3 days ago

    This is what happens when you manage for the day and not for the future.

    How about getting private entities to purchase the buildings and lease back to the winning consessionaires.

  • Reader Participation Day: Where Is The Best Microbrew In The National Park System?   1 week 3 days ago

    After a long day hiking in Arches, I enjoyed the Squeaky Bike Nut Brown Ale and Black Raven Outmeal Stout from the Moab Brewery - a real thirst quencher!!!

  • Xanterra Parks & Resorts Sues National Park Service Over Grand Canyon Contracts   1 week 3 days ago

    A pretty drastic step. I wouldn't award any future contracts to someone who sued me.

  • Grand Canyon National Park's Concessions Issue Impacting National Parks Nationwide   1 week 4 days ago

    Not exactly a stellar way to approach the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

  • Xanterra Parks & Resorts Sues National Park Service Over Grand Canyon Contracts   1 week 4 days ago

    Sorry Xanterra, while you may have been caught by surprise and you or others may lose money, I don't see anything here that says there was a breach of contract of violation of the law. Unless there is something that we aren't being presented here, I see no basis for a suit.

  • UPDATED: Court Upholds National Park Service Decision To Put Recreation Above Preservation   1 week 4 days ago

    Agreed that everyone should be willing to give up some but not all of their rights without 100% just cause. That's a large part of our debate over management - how much to give up. Gladesmen and other locals down here have already given up around 99.8% of previously legal access trails. My question is when is enough enough. ORV trail access in Big C doesn't amount to much percentage of the land mass (I know that's debatable) and on top of that they are available to everyone not just one type visitor.

    Maybe at some point visitors will look upon them as an asset helping all to enjoy the wonders hidden deep in the Big Cypress Swamp since once you step off of them you are in a wilderness whether technically specified as or or not.

  • UPDATED: Court Upholds National Park Service Decision To Put Recreation Above Preservation   1 week 4 days ago

    From what I've heard over the years they called it a Preserve to distinguish that it wasn't a Park thus coule be used hard just not too hard. The word is very confusing though and possibly responsible for the general public's confusion as to what can take place in a Federal Preserve.

    Now here's a funny - When the State of Florida specifies a State Preserve such as the Fakahatchee down the street W of the Big C they mean that propewrty is like a National Park and not to be used for much human activities other than hiking.

    Yes - words can be very confusing.

  • Reader Participation Day: Where Is The Best Microbrew In The National Park System?   1 week 4 days ago

    I believe the Alaskan Brewing Co. collects sitka spruce tips from Glacier Bay National Park for its Winter Ale...

    Is that legal?

  • Reader Participation Day: Where Is The Best Microbrew In The National Park System?   1 week 4 days ago

    I believe the Alaskan Brewing Co. collects sitka spruce tips from Glacier Bay National Park for its Winter Ale...

  • Reader Participation Day: Where Is The Best Microbrew In The National Park System?   1 week 4 days ago

    The most popular at Skagway Brewing Company, near Klondike Goldrush Ntl Historical Park, is their Spruce Tip Blond. Each spring they gather about 500 pounds of hand picked Sitka Spruce branch tips to use in their brewing, which gives it a bit of a tart flavor a lot of folks seem to enjoy.

  • UPDATED: Court Upholds National Park Service Decision To Put Recreation Above Preservation   1 week 4 days ago

    So true, EC. But tell that to the Seattle City Council. They ignore the war clubs on display in the Burke Museum, along with the rest of the history nobody likes. Of course, the war clubs and shields were only "ceremonial."

  • UPDATED: Court Upholds National Park Service Decision To Put Recreation Above Preservation   1 week 4 days ago

    Everyone since Columbus in an interloper.

    Why do you only go back to Columbus? The peoples before him were immigrants and conquerors too.

  • UPDATED: Court Upholds National Park Service Decision To Put Recreation Above Preservation   1 week 4 days ago

    Why is it called "Big Cypress National Preserve" and not "Big Cypress National Recreation Area"? If Congress had intended recreation to have top priority, wouldn't they have chosen the latter name?

  • UPDATED: Court Upholds National Park Service Decision To Put Recreation Above Preservation   1 week 4 days ago

    Just for the record, every national park, preserve, historical site, etc., has had this debate. On Monday, in fact, the Seattle City Council voted to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. Debate resolved. Everyone since Columbus in an interloper, and that goes for gladesmen and crackers, too. Here is what we forget. In the maintenance of a civilization, in this case one including the national parks, we all have to give up something, including what we perceive to be ancestral rights. Unfortunately, our colleges and universities stopped teaching that long ago. It is all about me, me, me. Given "the system," as it were, future historians will understand why so many agreed to participate, but yes, those historians will be equally obliged to report how our blatant selfishness destroyed the "best idea we ever had," including democracy itself.

  • UPDATED: Court Upholds National Park Service Decision To Put Recreation Above Preservation   1 week 4 days ago

    Honest answer - I can't speak for others but I would guess that Gladesmen's attitudes on race would vary due to many variables (education, family, peers etc.) we all are subjected to through life. It is great to hear you took the time to learn about our Gladesmen culture hopefully others will also if given the opportunity.

  • Reader Participation Day: Where Is The Best Microbrew In The National Park System?   1 week 4 days ago

    Did that new brew pub ever open on Bathhouse Row at Hot Springs NP?

  • Reader Participation Day: Where Is The Best Microbrew In The National Park System?   1 week 4 days ago

    Our vote is either for Cadillac Mountain Stout or Thunder Hole Ale by the Bar Harbor Brewing Company.

    www.barharborbrewing.com/products.html

    We may be somewhat biased because Acadia is always on our mind! But both brews have won raves at the World Beer Championships. Great idea for reader participation topic. Maybe we'll borrow the microbrew review topic for an Acadia on My Mind blog post one day and link to this NPT article.