Delaware North are not the Villains

Ahwahnee HotelI read an article online last week that really got me upset. The article is titled "Villains Honoring Villains", and it points it's venom at The Yosemite Fund presenting their "Corporate Protector of the Year" award to the Delaware North Companies (DNC). The author is upset that there is a for-profit company operating inside of Yosemite National Park. His feeling is that this is the beginning of a process towards the complete privatization of our entire National Parks.

I wanted to yell at my computer as I read the article, I was so mad. First, to characterize Delaware North and the Yosemite Fund as a villains just doesn't work. DNC is a company awarded a contract by the NPS to run the services inside the park. These for-profit services have been an essential part of our parks from the beginning. Places like the Ahwahnee Hotel are not run by park rangers, and never have been. Does anybody expect an employee in a park service uniform to sell you a Coke and sandwich for lunch? Probably not, but as visitors to these places, we expect these services when we arrive.

And, The Yosemite Fund is a non-profit that puts all of it's donations towards improvements in the park for people. That does not seem so villainous to me. The management of people costs money. Roads cost money, trail maintenance costs money, bathroom repair costs money.

Yosemite is not being overrun by development or privatization. Almost all of the development is, and has nearly always been, concentrated in the Yosemite Valley. That is where you buy your t-shirts, film, and DVDs. Over 95% of Yosemite is federally designated wilderness area. A wilderness area is defined as being undeveloped, and retaining its primeval character and influence without permanent improvements. Managing these areas requires far far less money than managing the areas that most people can drive their cars. As an example, take a look at these numbers for two park service units:


park namesize in acres'04 visitation'04 budget$ per acre
Gates Of The Arctic8,472,50610,282$1,912,000$0.22
Statue of Liberty583,677,532$13,261,000$228,637.00


This may be an extreme example, but I wanted to show that it isn't as much the wilderness that requires our federal dollars, instead, it is you and me as visitors that do. And when the feds don't fully fund the budget demands of our parks, unless we want the gates of the parks to be closed to visitation, we have to accept that there will be private dollars in our nation's parks ... for now. It is my wish to see our federal taxes go back to fully funding the parks, to see staffing levels return, and to see some of the services which have been given away (like interpretation) return to NPS control. Unfortunately, that day may be a long ways off. So in the meantime, instead of calling these helper organizations "villains", I wish the author of that article would fix his gaze on those that have short-changed our National Park Service, the creators of our federal budget.
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Comments

Your blog site looks like a giant advertisement for NPS and the concessionaire especially since it is peppered with ads and links to both. There is no indication as to who you are, what you stand for, what your agenda is, or what you're promoting - aside from your views - which are naive at best. You refer to an unnamed author who wrote, "Villains Honoring Villains," but you fail to mention WildWilderness.org or Scott Silver by name.

Would you please fill us in so we better understand the context of your remarks? Are you employed by NPS, or the concessionaire? Are you a member of the Yosemite fund, or a possibly a donor? Come on. Can you give us a clue? If you're going to post a blog like this, be brave enough to stand up and be known for what you believe. There''s a wealth of info to share with the public on the issues you raised. Thanks.
I agree with AWells. The criticism of a well-written and truthful article about the current reality in Yosemite was poorly executed because even if the writer chose to remain anonymous they could have better explained their reasons for taking issue with the article describing the unhealthy connection between Delaware North and the Yosemite Fund and their suspect roles in Yosemite. I'm afraid your criticism of this article has no credibility, as you failed to convince me that corporations DON'T have too much influence in our national parks. Yes, our current adminstration can be blamed for a lot and yes the NPS is getting financially squeezed, but the problem goes much deeper than that. The concessionaire Delaware North has a monopoly on our western national parks and non-profits like Yosemite Fund don't necessarily wear a white hat--check out their major donors.
AWells and Elderberry, thank you for the comments. I'm sorry if you feel like I'm trying to hide behind anonymity. I have no agenda other than to write about news about the Park Service that I find interesting. I am not employed by the Park Service, nor am I employed by any park concessionaire. I used to work for the Parks years ago, and am still friends with employees of the NPS and of concessionaires in the parks. If I am naive, educate me. And, as far as the advertisements, it's a program that is keyed off of words contained on the page, I don't pick which ads you see. Hosting this site costs money, and advertisements are a simple way to make back a tiny percentage of the cost.

Yes, the Yosemite Fund has some donors who are happy to have their name associated with the clean image of the parks, like oil companies. I am concerned when I see the logo of Exxon on an interpretive sign in Yosemite Valley, it bothers me. So, let's figure out solutions. Services for park visitors that used to be free now cost money. And, in many instances that money is going to services delivered by Delaware North. So what is the solution? Kick all concessionaires out of the park until the Feds make those services free again? Or is the solution something else? My ears are open. You can write your comments here, or write to me directly at tips@parkremark.com Let's get a dialog going.
Thank you so much for the invitation to provide more info.

With regard to 'Villains honoring Villains,' the author, Scott Silver, hit the nail squarely on the head. Concessionaires make donations to non-profit organizations that use their trusted name and public trust to help pave the way for Park Service plans to succeed. The NPS Yosemite Valley Plan is a prime example. The Yosemite Fund used their PR machinery, public donations and public trust to develop, guide and limit public activity at Yosemite Falls (more on this issue below). These non-profit projects are not guided by public comment even though they claim to be (consider public comments made by Native Americans and direct descendants of Chief Tenaya against the Yosemite Fund's plans), but rather they are driven by other factors. Non-profit organizations, like the Yosemite Fund, have a desire to create signature legacies on a grand scale.

Further, concessionaires will frequently make donations to the non-profits to support their goals (like helping fund pet projects), and then non-profit groups honor a concessionaire with awards to help their company gain public attention and favorable good will. What a bargain! Meanwhile, the Park Service then touts this non-profit 'park within a park' project as a sign of what's to come, and uses it to gauge public opinion. If there's no outcry, no huge public protest, then the Yosemite Valley Plan will proceed with little public scrutiny. Be aware that the Yosemite Falls project will set the tone for more development, not less. The Yosemite Valley Plan, once realized, will create huge profits for the concessionaire who has the contract to operate these park facilities. It's in their best interest, financially, to support any and every group that will encourage major infrastructure upgrades to bring more people to visit. The Yosemite Falls project is an example of this. Meanwhile, we hear press reports that Yosemite is besieged with visitors. This is absolutely true on a few national holiday weekends, and untrue for most of the year. We don't need a massive transportation plan or infrastructure change to occur in Yosemite to accommodate visitors. Based on public input from the 1980 General Management Plan, NPS should be moving unnecessary and non-essential infrastructure, businesses and employees out of the Park altogether, and into surrounding gateway areas that would love to accommodate them. They should not be expanding the human footprint in Yosemite Valley, and calling it restoration. The only way to gauge what is forthcoming in development and commercialism is to read the plans and do the math. It's shocking.

With Yosemite National Park as an example, National Park Service brass removed Clean Air and Natural Quiet as Outstandingly Remarkable Values (ORV's) from the Merced River Plan. Why? This will enable the development and implementation of a huge transportation plan with a diesel busing operation to transport visitors from three NEW satellite parking areas to Yosemite Valley, as described in the Yosemite Valley Plan. While these plans state a preference for clean fuels ' the reality is diesel. Further, removal of two qualities that most visitors value tremendously (clean air and natural quiet, DUH!), paves the way for a vastly expanded secondary shuttle system to transport people around Yosemite Valley. Mind you, these two busing operations are in addition to commercial buses and YARTS (another huge busing operation, and a glorified failure). Picture something similar to Grand Central Station in Yosemite Valley ' with buses circling non-stop around your beloved park ' all day. For more details, please see my next comment.
Now, back to the development and resulting commercialism. When tourists have no access to their cars, most will be dependent on buses to navigate Yosemite Valley (while others will walk or rent bicycles). Concessionaires will have a 'captive audience' of customers who are on vacation with money to spend. Who better to accommodate their need for concessionaire-labeled snacks and water, diapers, sweatshirts, warm jackets, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, disposable cameras, digital film cards, boxed lunches, rain gear, souvenirs, and stroller and bicycle rentals than the primary concessionaire? How many people are going to carry this stuff onto buses, then unload and reload their 'freight' at each bus stop? Without cars, people will have no choice but to carry what they need, buy it or rent it. How much can elderly people manage to carry? What about a family with small children? Try loading and unloading strollers, two kids, and the stuff to keep warm, dry, hydrated and fed along the way at each of the grand sites you'd like to see. Visitors will have no choice but to take out their wallets, or suffer the load on their shoulders.

With plans for hundreds of buses traversing in and around Yosemite Valley daily, plus YARTs and commercial buses, how far will visitors have to walk to escape the sight, smell and sound of diesel buses? Forget peace and quiet, and particulate-free air. There will be no escape from the adverse impacts of hundreds of buses. You will see a massive parade of diesel-belchers moving from satellite parking areas to the new bus depot/visitor center, with another parade of bio-diesel buses moving around the Valley. In the press, however, NPS will be touting their 'clean-fuel buses' and two electric buses taken out of the shop for press parades. Bottom line: visitors will see Yosemite Valley's signature sights from the seat of a bus unless they choose to hoof it. For those who are able to walk or rent bikes (yikes, another fee), they'll have to choose which of the amazing sights to pass on as they probably won't see all of them before they tire out, or the last bus leaves to take them back to their cars.

Careful reading of Park Service plans for Yosemite, and follow-up clarification with NPS staff, will reveal that the 'devil is in the details.' Note: NPS has removed the draft and final plans, and placed it with a watered down version of what was originally available in volumes. See http://www.nps.gov/yose/pla... for some details, but for the whole enchilada you should request original CDs (draft and final YVP plans) from the planning office. If the Valley Plan proceeds, the primary concessionaire stands to score huge profits in a national park and world heritage site supported by our tax dollars ' with a slew of redesigned roads, bridges, electrical and sewer infrastructure, new and expanded employee housing and entertainment facilities, lodging, bars and restaurants, food and liquor stores, and souvenir shops ' all paid for with our tax dollars. By the way, concessionaire accounting records are not open for public review and scrutiny.

In the voluminous NPS plans (draft and final versions) you'll find a whole new level of glossy public relations and propaganda paid for with our tax dollars. The scale of planned development and commercialism is shocking, and remarkable given that NPS has been publicly masquerading the Merced River and Yosemite Valley Plans as restoration plans ' which couldn't be further from the truth. The Valley Plan budget shows $28.5 million will set aside for Resource Stewardship (restoration work), while visitor experience/facilities will cost us $113.5, transportation/circulation will cost us $73.3 million, administration/infrastructure will cost us $51.1 million, and new employee housing will set us taxpayers back another $175 million. The Valley Plan shows that almost $413 million will be set aside for new infrastructure (with a footnote that indicates this figure is an estimate that excludes planning). Doing the math, who would call this a restoration plan when less than seven percent would be spent to restore natural resources? This is all about new development and new commercialization. Read the plans for Curry Village. Those ought to give you a heart attack.

See Yosemite Valley while you can. Once America and the rest of the world wakes up to the ching!ching! in Yosemite National Park, the massive infrastructure will be permanent, concessionaire profits will be even more immense, non-profit organizations will have a hand in redesigning what nature and God gave us so it's more to their liking, and there will be no turning back. It's all about privatization for profit. It's not about nature, or preservation for future generations. Thanks, and keep us posted.
I'm the Communications Manager for The Yosemite Fund and have been reading Silver's article on many sites I regularly visit. The privatization of public lands is a grave concern and one worth sleuthing regularly and for that reason I am happy that Silver's article was published.

However, I am writing to clarify who The Yosemite Fund's donors are and how we work to show that using The Yosemite Fund as a prime example of the privatization of public lands, as Scott Silver's article did, is erroneous.

Each year, the Fund is given a list of projects eligible for private funding by the National Park Service. We take that list and solicit funds for projects that preserve, protect and enhance Yosemite. We invite you to view our projects at http://www.yosemitefund.org. You will see that the project areas we fund are trail repair, habitat restoration, cultural and historic preservation, visitor education, scientific research and wildlife management.

Silver's article states that much of the Fund's donations come from corporate sponsors. Individuals have accounted for over 50% of our annual contributions since we began. Corporate donations last year accounted for 5.3% of our total revenue.

Since 1988, The Yosemite Fund has contributed over $35 million to more than 200 projects in Yosemite. Our donors, over half of whom are individuals, have funded projects to restore meadows, provide bear boxes, update educational exhibits and support a number of studies and surveys of wildlife.

If anyone would like to know more about our work or get a copy of our annual report for evidence of our funding sources, please feel free to contact me, Lisa Lomba at 415.434.8446, x16.
I work and live here at the Yosemite National Park and you're all making DNC look like Wal-Mart. Have you even been to the national park? I have camped out here in the park before I started to work here and I only spent $5 per person per night to camp out, $5 fee goes straight to NPS btw.

The busing around the valley floor all use a hybrid system and is free to everyone all year round. I brought my own food and supplies not knowing that there was a store that carried almost everything. You have to understand that the park is middle of nowhere so I understand how things are priced.

DNC is close to being tied up by NPS to expand around here. The cabins at the lodge that was wiped away from the flood tens years ago will never be replaced because DNC is not allowed to rebuild in the flood zone. Pretty much everything is at a stand still for expansion for a long long time if never. The only thing I know and see being shuffled around is employee housing. Yosemite Park is a pretty small place, just like a small town comprised of DNC and NPS employees, so trust me words travel as fast as lightning.

Oh yeah restoration project means just restoration, not expansion. If the hiking trails were not to be restored and your kid falls of the mountain you can blame your self for being assuming tree hugger. Don't judge to quickly or assume things that you have no idea of.

FYI DNC's 15 year contract with NPS will be over in two years and they earned the last bid since the contract calls for 25% of profit going to NPS. Another FYI, Disney and McDonalds were out bid by DNC. Imagine Yosemite ran by Disney or McDonalds, lol.

As i go around the internet looking at acticles about Yosemite is is amazing to see the different views that people have about the park. It all has to do with what you want the park to be. As for me I want to camp in the valley just like I have been able to since 1975. It is obsene to me to see others who dont camp want to reshape the park into something different than it has been for the last 100 years. For years I heard about how we campers at Housekeeping were destroying the bank of the merced river. We were told that the whole camp ground must be removed to save the bank!!! Than a 100 year flood comes along and wips out a 100 times more bank than all of the humans have caused since the parks inception. So I ask you are we humans more powerful than nature? the answer is obvisous. NO!!! All the commotion was about getting rid of campers so that ELitist HIKERS and Hotel guest could have a pretter veiw. Never mind that people have camped in the valley for 100 years or more. (2 campgrounds have already been removed even though the government had given the money to the park to restore them) I now have to buy reservation on Ebay some years because I can not get through to reserve the remaining spots. Many also want to get rid of all building and roads in the valley and make into a backpackers only area. Again how elitist is that. Oh by the way Del Corp now charges $5.00 for a shower for anyone not staying in curry village up from a dollar . I was unaware of a 500% increase in the cost of living!!!!

I have just returned from Yosemite. I left a day early to avoid eating any more prison-standard food .... The problem is not too much privatization and profit -- it's too little. What Yosemite needs is separate companies competing for business, instead of a government-sponsored monopoly. DNC is your only choice for food inside the park. The nearest option is over an hour away. There is no incentive for them to be any good. It's basic economics and human nature -- competition breeds lower prices and better service. Why do we suspend free markets inside the parks of a free country?

Chuck W:
I have just returned from Yosemite. I left a day early to avoid eating any more prison-standard food .... The problem is not too much privatization and profit -- it's too little. What Yosemite needs is separate companies competing for business, instead of a government-sponsored monopoly. DNC is your only choice for food inside the park. The nearest option is over an hour away. There is no incentive for them to be any good. It's basic economics and human nature -- competition breeds lower prices and better service. Why do we suspend free markets inside the parks of a free country?
That seems like quite an exaggeration. Yosemite View Lodge is just outside the entrance and easily less than an hour from Yosemite Valley. Mariposa is less than an hour from the Arch Rock Entrance. There are places to eat along CA-41 on the way to Oakhurst, which is less than an hour from the South Entrance.

I found Degnan's Loft to have a pretty good pizza at a reasonable price. The other options weren't so good or were too expensive though. I've had good meals at the Mountain Room at Yosemite Lodge and at the Ahwahnee dining room, but those were rather pricey.

I do remember Yellowstone, where there is competition for dining options between Xanterra and DNC (operates Yellowstone General Stores). In particular, I liked the soda fountain at the Canyon area, which was run by DNC.

Of course national park style operations are only a fraction of DNC's operations. They own an arena in Boston and provide concession services for assorted stadiums and arenas around the country (a la Aramark).