Recent comments

  • Grand Canyon National Park's Concessions Issue Impacting National Parks Nationwide   1 week 5 days ago

    Well if they have to "pay for the improvements". They dont really own a clear title. Bottom line, if consessioner A invests but consessioner B isnt willing to pay for the investment the value isnt there and the NPS shouldnt pay It.

  • Grand Canyon National Park's Concessions Issue Impacting National Parks Nationwide   1 week 5 days ago

    For the improvements they've made over the term of their concession.

    A concessioner shall have a leasehold surrender interest in each capital improvement constructed by a concessioner under a concessions contract, consisting solely of a right to compensation for the capital improvement to the extent of the value of the concessioner’s leasehold surrender interest in the capital improvement.

  • Grand Canyon National Park's Concessions Issue Impacting National Parks Nationwide   1 week 5 days ago

    Then why do they have to pay the departing concessioner?

  • Grand Canyon National Park's Concessions Issue Impacting National Parks Nationwide   1 week 5 days ago

    But the NPS isn't interested in selling the buildings.

    Title to any capital improvement constructed by a concessioner on lands owned by the United States in a unit of the National Park System shall be vested in the United States.

    Here's the entire 1998 Act:

    http://www.concessions.nps.gov/docs/OMNIBUS1998.pdf

  • Grand Canyon National Park's Concessions Issue Impacting National Parks Nationwide   1 week 5 days ago

    If I follow correctly, the NPS is buying out all the facilities from the concessionaires.

    The question is why - or at least why at these valuations. If the properties were actually worth that much, the other consessionaires would be willing to buy them.

  • Grand Canyon National Park's Concessions Issue Impacting National Parks Nationwide   1 week 5 days ago

    Zeb, the newer contracts (since the 1998 act took effect, actually) require a % to be set aside for maintenance, and some contracts cite specific projects the winning bidder needs to address.

    Two years ago we ran a two-part story that looked into just that:

    http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2012/12/national-park-lodging-whos-...

    http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2012/12/national-park-lodging-whos-...

    Be sure to come back Sunday for a story that looks at another option....

  • Grand Canyon National Park's Concessions Issue Impacting National Parks Nationwide   1 week 5 days ago

    If I follow correctly, the NPS is buying out all the facilities from the concessionaires. As those facilities age, they'll require additional maintenance that the NPS won't be able to afford. So, they'll turn back to the concessionaires and we'll be back to square 1. Did I miss something?

  • UPDATED: Court Upholds National Park Service Decision To Put Recreation Above Preservation   1 week 5 days ago

    Examples of the simpleheadedness of party followers of all ilk abound, dumb.

    When you have only a hammer in your own hand, you're going to see nails everywhere in a favorable light, and 'the other guys' will all appear to be phillips head screws.

  • UPDATED: Court Upholds National Park Service Decision To Put Recreation Above Preservation   1 week 5 days ago

    Is it a coincidence that these groups are all Democrat party supporters and it's members are also? Is this political party followers just more easily duped?

  • Grand Canyon National Park's Concessions Issue Impacting National Parks Nationwide   1 week 5 days ago

    Thanks for stimulating some important discussions, Kurt, about how we find the right financial model to provide appropriate visitor infrastructure in our national parks. We need to see this an issue far bigger than the aggregated LSI at the Grand Canyon. It is also reflected in $1B+ in deferred maintenance backlog at concessioner-operated sites, where NPS appropriations have year-after-year been inadequate to keep wonderful but expensive-to-maintain historic sites in good repair. Also noteworthy is that NPS unilaterally removed a useful tool from its toolbox -- special accounts funded by targeted fees, the exact kind of fees proposed by some other commenters above. Proved very useful at Lake Powell and other areas, but NPS eliminated this strategy without discussion and with no legislative basis.

  • UPDATED: Court Upholds National Park Service Decision To Put Recreation Above Preservation   1 week 5 days ago

    Beach, I heartily agree. So many times something starts out on the right path and then morphs. Time to re-evaluate focusing more on just what you suggested. Tough thing to do in this political environment but people will recognize truth when they hear it. Wished more people would try it.

  • Grand Canyon National Park's Concessions Issue Impacting National Parks Nationwide   1 week 5 days ago

    While the intentions were likely good when the whole idea of encouraging vendors to pay for improvements and LSI's were implemented I have always subscribed to keeping things as simple as possible. The more complicated you make your business the bigger the waste and inefficiency, and the harder it is to get at the true costs of operating your business. Now you are paying added procurement personnel, accountants, arbitrators and lawyers. Presumably, others are wasting time in meetings deciding where to make cuts and what those savings will be. All of which I would argue are adding zero value and not likely helping employee morale.

  • UPDATED: Court Upholds National Park Service Decision To Put Recreation Above Preservation   1 week 6 days ago

    Participating as respectfully as one can in as many forums such as this is one way to inform others as best we can of the details of very complicated and convoluted situations NPS finds themselves in due to political compromises that end up as laws such as the Enabling Act of the Big Cypress and it's Addition.

    These inherint complexities set situations up that facilitate those with funding and publishing machines to spin the yarns that deceive members of their organizations who then actually wind up donating more money to them that fosters more of the same misinformation being dumped into these brains of the vulnerable folks that believe them.

    It is a very tall order to reinform people in an accurate manner since their minds get made up based essentially on misinformation rather than accurate truth.

  • UPDATED: Court Upholds National Park Service Decision To Put Recreation Above Preservation   1 week 6 days ago

    True and honest environmentalists should be beyond angry with these groups (Audubon, DoW, PEER, NPCA, the Sierra Club) for thier blatant dishonesty. They are turning the people against them and their once honorable cause. You have to be either delusional or dishonest to support these groups. The NPS are shed in a negative light because of thier association and alignment with these groups. Who are the real environmentalsts these days that understand the need for truth and balance? The evidence shows it is not these groups.

  • Xanterra Parks & Resorts Sues National Park Service Over Grand Canyon Contracts   1 week 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 days ago

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