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Latest Briefs for RV Parks and Campgrounds

September 20, 2013 by · Comments Off on Latest Briefs for RV Parks and Campgrounds 

 

The Texas Tenors

GEORGIA

From a news release:

The Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA), one of the sponsors of a PBS concert featuring the Texas Tenors vocal trio this past spring, has announced that the group will perform at the association’s 89th Family Reunion and Motorhome Showcase in Perry, Ga., March 17-20.

According to a press release, millions of viewers met the singers as they competed on NBC-TV’s “America’s Got Talent” in 2009. To date, they remain the highest-ranking vocal group in the show’s history.

Tunes from the group’s newest CD, “You Should Dream,” scheduled for release later this year, were performed during the taping of the PBS concert on May 13 at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Ariz. The trio was accompanied by the Phoenix Symphony and the New Life Singers university choir.

The Tenors previously performed at the association’s 84th International Convention in Redmond, Ore., in August 2010.

Other performers slated to appear during the association’s 2014 event in Perry are Southern humorist/speaker Jeanne Robertson, March 18, and singer/songwriter Sarah Getto, March 20.

TEXAS

From the Wilson County News, Floresville:

After more than a year, the Floresville Planning and Zoning Commission has issued unanimous approval of a special-use permit for the Pecan Springs RV Park.

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

Campers and boaters will have to find other spots for recreation at Benbrook Lake after the Army Corps of Engineers abruptly closed Rocky Creek Park on Tuesday (Sept. 17).

The park was closed after the corps canceled a joint management agreement with nonprofit foundation Our Lands and Waters late last week.

Rhonda Paige, a spokeswoman for the Fort Worth district office of the corps, said the park is closed until further notice. She also said Rocky Creek has no camping reservations through September, but if the closing of the park continues into October — the beginning of the new fiscal year — it could have an impact.

MARYLAND

From The Dispatch, Ocean City:

Though it seemed dead on arrival when introduced to the Worcester County Commission in August, two commissioners this week chose to resurrect discussion on possible cooperative campground changes that would allow the enclosure of porches.

Commission President Bud Church and Commissioner Jim Bunting both decided to add their name to an application that calls for the allowance of enclosed porches on cooperative campgrounds. This comes as a reversal of both commissioners’ earlier decision not to move the bill forward when it was first presented on Aug. 20.

The proposed text amendment application was originally submitted last winter by attorney Mark Cropper on behalf of the Bali Hi Cooperative Campground. The application seeks an alteration to the county code that would allow porches in co-op campgrounds to be bounded by “temporary roll or soft plastic enclosures.”

Click here to read the entire story.

MONTANA

From KPAX-TV, Missoula:

Layoffs have begun at Glacier Park Incorporated after the company failed to renew their concessions contract with Glacier National Park.

Glacier Park Inc. managed concessions at the park for over 30 years, but their contract expired earlier this year. Park officials then announced that Xanterra Parks and Resorts was able to secure a 16-year contract last month.

It’s not clear at this time how many layoffs will take place as a result of losing the bid – or how long layoffs will continue.

ALBERTA, CANADA

From the Rocky Mountain Outlook, Canmore:

A prominent former superintendent of Banff National Park is accusing the federal government of selling out the public interest in favour of commercialization of national parks.

In Facebook statements about a proposed 66-room hotel and 15 tent cabins on the shores of Jasper’s Maligne Lake, Kevin Van Tighem stated the public interest is being sold out in spite of clear messages from Canadians who don’t want more “development and diversions in their treasured national parks.”

“We are on the verge of losing 20 years worth of hard and principled work by public servants to respond to broad public concern by establishing firm limits on commercial development,” he wrote.

Click here to read the entire story.

 

 

Sequestration: Parks Bracing for Grim Future

September 20, 2013 by · 3 Comments 

 Editor’s Note: The following column was provided by writer Kellyn Brown and appeared in the Flathead Beacon, Kalispell, Mont.

Of the many challenges facing Glacier National Park’s new Superintendent Jeff Mow the most pressing will be decided by Congress in the next few weeks. Will lawmakers replace sequestration – the automatic budget cuts that will deepen in the coming years? Will they leave it in place? Will they provide a temporary fix?

Predicting whether the House and Senate will reach an agreement on the budget is stupid. But I’ll assume the chambers won’t agree to anything substantial – basing that assumption on recent history (debt ceiling, farm bill, transportation bill … ). If that’s the case, then the budget for the National Park Service will continue to shrink and Mow is realistic about the looming consequences.

“How, as a government agency, do we do less with less?” Mow asked in a recent interview.

And his is not the only agency bracing for the worst. According to a recent report from bank behemoth Goldman Sachs, sequestration could cost another 100,000 federal jobs over the course of the next several months. Goldman also blames the automatic budget cuts for the “disappointing” 0.1% personal income gain registered in July.

Right now, the general public has mostly shrugged its shoulders at the federal cutbacks. That can partially be attributed to the way in which a variety of agencies weathered what they thought were temporary reductions – “through furloughs and deferral of maintenance and training, with the hope that sequestration would ultimately be reversed,” according to the Goldman report.

But that may not happen. And, to be sure, the initial impacts have already been felt in parts of the country, especially at national parks. Over Memorial Day weekend, the Arizona Republic reported drivers sitting in their car for an hour to enter the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park – an abnormally long wait blamed on staff reductions. There were also fewer rangers to protect area parks even after cactuses were vandalized.

Elsewhere, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway, campgrounds and visitor centers have closed and ranger-led programs were cancelled. In Glacier National Park, it appeared the sudden loss of $682,000 from its roughly $12.5 budget million could delay plowing Going-to-the-Sun Road. If that were to happen – if the opening of the park’s signature attraction was delayed – the public outcry and tourism dollars lost would be equally substantial.

Instead, the Glacier National Park Conservancy, which raises financial support for various resources and aspects of park operations, donated about $10,000 to help cover plowing costs. That, and salary savings from unanticipated personnel changes, allowed the road to open on schedule.

But what happens next year? Or the year after that? Perhaps the worst part of the reoccurring budget battles in Congress is agencies have no idea how much money they will be allocated. It’s impossible to plan long-term when funding is short-term. If sequestration is permanent then lawmakers need to say as much and their constituents who reap the economic benefits of living near national parks can brace for the impact.

How much of an effect these cuts will have – if made permanent – is debated. But the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), which advocates for both the park service and the country’ national parks, paints a dire picture.

If reduced funding levels remain, along with reduced services, NPCA foresees “significant implications … for park visitors and park gateway businesses that annually depend on $30 billion in economic activity and more than a quarter million jobs that our national parks support.”

But compounding that is the uncertainty. If Mow, and other superintendents, need to prepare to do “less with less,” then they at least deserve to know by how much.

 

 

Latest Briefs for RV Parks and Campgrounds

September 19, 2013 by · Comments Off on Latest Briefs for RV Parks and Campgrounds 

NEW YORK

From a news release:

McConchie’s Heritage Acres Campground in Galway invites area families to their campground on Saturday, Sept. 28, from Noon to 4 p.m. for its End of Year Bash. Activities and offerings will include a bouncy house, games, fire truck rides, bake sale, crafts, a band, a DJ, face painting, raffles, food and more. Proceeds raised from the Bash will benefit Camp Good Days and Special Times, a New York state-based organization providing camping experiences to children with cancer.

Day visitors are encouraged to attend the Bash, but it is also McConchie’s “Buy 1 Night, Get 1 Night Free” camping weekend for interested campers who call and make reservations at (518) 882-6605.

According to manager Michele Lajeunesse, her seasonal campers had the idea for the Bash. “My seasonals came up with this wonderful way to have a big blow-out for Camp Good Days. We’ve all been planning the activities not just for all the campers but for the public to come, too, to help raise funds at the Bash but to also enjoy the ‘Buy 1 Night, Get 1 Night Free’ weekend.”

McConchie’s has also partnered with fiVe BELoW for a weeklong shopping event from Sept. 22-29. During that week, shoppers bringing in a special flyer from McConchie’s Heritage Acres Campground will have 10% of their purchases at the store credited toward a donation to Camp Good Days. fiVe BELoW carries school supplies, software, books, electronics, sporting goods, games, T-shirts, jewelry, bath and body, candy, snacks and beverages, room décor, storage, and more priced at $5 or less. Shoppers must have the flyer to have the donation credited to Camp Good Days. Participating stores are located at 579 Troy Schenectady Road, Latham, NY, and 3072 Route 50, Saratoga Springs, NY.

For more details about the End of Year Bash, or to print a copy of the fiVe BELoW shopping flyer, visit the website homepage for McConchie’s Heritage Acres Campground at www.mcconchiescampground.com, and scroll to page bottom. You can also pick up the shopping flyer in person at the campground.

MONTANA

From The Missoulian, Missoula: 

Bear activity has prompted officials at Glacier National Park to initiate “aversive conditioning” at St, Mary Campground on the east side of the park, and park officials closed camping Wednesday (Sept. 18) to tents and pop-up campers. Only completely hard-sided trailers and campers are allowed, park spokeswoman Jennifer Lutman said.

There have been no human-bear interactions yet, and that’s how the National Park Service (NPS) wants to keep it.

It’s unknown how long the hard-sided camping limitation will be in effect.

The campground, on the park’s east boundary between St. Mary Lake and Lower St. Mary Lake, offers primitive camping through Oct. 31 for a fee of $10 a night. After that, camping is free with a valid park entrance pass through the end of March.

Rising Sun Campground, six miles up the road from St. Mary, was closed for a few days in August because of multiple incidents involving what was believed to be the same black bear. Lutman said it was closed for good on Sept. 3.

ALABAMA

From al.com:

The synchronized Christmas light show planned for the Hoover RV Park next to Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover will not happen this year after all, but organizers say they’ll be ready to put it on in 2014.

Art Roper, owner of OneEightySix Lightworks, the company that is planning the show, said he was not able to line up enough corporate sponsors this year to move ahead with it. He needs corporate sponsors to help buy the custom-made light fixtures and tens of thousands of lights that will be used in the show, he said.

Click here to read the entire story.

 

 

 

J. Jarvis: ‘We Muddled Through the Summer’

September 12, 2013 by · Comments Off on J. Jarvis: ‘We Muddled Through the Summer’ 

Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park. According to some estimates, glaciers in the park will largely be gone in the next 15 to 20 years. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

Editor’s Note: The following story was published by the Hungry Horse News, Flathead, Mont.

National Park Service (NPS) Director Jonathan Jarvis sits on a picnic table outside the Lake McDonald Lodge on a near perfect afternoon last week. Behind him, a building has a tarp draped over it because a tree fell and damaged the roof. The repairs have yet to be made, and there might not be enough money to actually make them, due to federal budget cuts.

Jarvis rattles off the impacts of the cuts that came this year and will likely impact budgets next year as well — a $153 million cut to the NPS operations budget, a hiring freeze that impacted 900 positions, a thousand seasonal employees who were not hired.

Jarvis was visiting Glacier Park to meet with the National Parks Foundation Board to go over fundraising strategies for the future and to get a first hand look at climate change.

“A lot of people stepped up” to help fund the nation’s parks, he said.

“That’s not sustainable,” he said in a candid interview. “That’s the bottom line. We muddled through the summer.”

Meanwhile, Glacier Park is on the cusp of posting record visitation numbers this summer — visitors that bring millions of dollars to the local economy.

“I would hope Congress would understand the National Park Service is not an expenditure — it’s an investment,” he said.

Jarvis claimed that every $1 spent on a national park translated into $4 for the local economy.

“(Businesses) rely on this park being funded adequately,” he said.

If people start to see a declining experience, such as rundown facilities or lack of staffing, “they’re not going to come back,” he said.

This year, the Glacier National Park Conservancy donated about $500,000 to Glacier Park projects, but it was the first time ever they gave $10,000 toward plowing the Going-to-the-Sun Road — a budgetary item normally covered by the park.

“It should never fall on the backs of philanthropy to fund the national parks,” Jarvis said.

It’s tough for NPS to plan a budget as a perpetual organization when it gets annual funding. The budget right now is untenable. He nods to the shed behind him as an example.

Jon Jarvis

“Look, we’re throwing a tarp over it,” he said.

Jarvis touched on other Glacier Park subjects. While noise is one of the main complaints facing the park, he said, NPS has no authority to regulate noise from motorcycles.

But park officials can regulate air tours over the Park, he said. He noted work has been done in other national parks, including the Grand Canyon, where air tour operators use helicopters designed to reduce noise.

Glacier Park’s General Management Plan, written in the late 1990s, calls for phasing out air tours over the park, but that has never happened.

Regarding climate change, Jarvis said NPS’s role is to study the science and manage species impacted when possible, but NPS wouldn’t do something on a landscape scale, such as cover a glacier with a tarp to try to preserve it.

According to some estimates, glaciers in Glacier National Park will largely be gone in the next 15 to 20 years.

 

Current Briefs for RV Parks and Campgrounds

August 29, 2013 by · Comments Off on Current Briefs for RV Parks and Campgrounds 

MONTANA

From The Missoulian, Missoula:

Glacier National Park has announced upcoming closing dates for everything from campgrounds and hotels, to boat tours and horseback rides.

One of the key ending dates is Monday (Sept. 2). Labor Day will be the final day the park offers its free shuttle service over Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The campgrounds close at noon of the date listed (note that a few campgrounds switch to primitive camping for part of the fall, which means pit toilets, no potable or drinking water available and a reduced number of camping sites. Camping fees are also reduced to $10 per night).

Also, ranger-led hikes and evening programs continue through September, and Red Bus Tours close on the same date that the hotels they operate out of close.

Click here for the entire story.

From the Billings Gazette:

Closures around the Horsetail fire in the Hyalite Recreation Area near Bozeman, and the Sheep fire in Tom Miner Basin near Gardiner, will be shrinking at noon today (Aug. 29).

In Hyalite the public will be allowed back into the West Fork of Hyalite Creek all the way to Hyalite Peak. That means Chisholm and Hood Creek campgrounds, Maxey and Window Rock cabins, as well as the Crescent Lake Trail and Palace Butte Trailhead that leads to Hyalite Peak and Grotto Falls will be open.

The East Fork of Hyalite Creek will remain closed, including the Palisade Falls Trailhead and Picnic area, Emerald and Heather Lakes Trailhead and Flanders Creek drainage.

The Tom Miner Basin Road leading up to and including the Tom Miner Campground will be opened. Also reopening are trail No. 120 from Tom Miner Campground leading to Buffalo Horn Pass, as well as Sunlight Creek Trail No. 291. The Divide Creek Road No. 3250 will also be opened. An area around the Sheep fire from Sheep Creek to the west and Grizzly Creek to the east and the forest boundary to the north and Yellowstone National Park boundary to the south will remain closed. This includes Horse Creek Trail No. 297 that leads to Shooting Star Lake.

The Gallatin National Forest would like to remind the public that Stage 1 Fire Restrictions are still in effect across the entire forest, meaning campfires and charcoal fires are only allowed at Forest Service selected recreation sites.

VIRGINIA

From National Parks Traveler:

The arrival of the emerald ash borer into Shenandoah National Park heightens the concern over what this invasive insect might do to the park’s forests, and reinforces why the park asks that you not bring firewood into the park.

The emerald ash borer is a half-inch-long metallic green beetle that lays its eggs on the bark of ash trees. After hatching, larvae burrow under the bark, creating feeding tunnels that cut off nutrients and water flow to the tree. Trees typically die within three to five years of being infected.

Click here to read the entire story.

PENNSYLVANIA

From myconestogavalleynews.com:

East Lampeter Township supervisors have given Country Acres Campground the approval to expand its camping facility near Gordonville.

The campground received final approval at the supervisors meeting Aug. 20 to remove five existing campsites and develop 19 new ones for a total of 100 camping sites. The plan is to join two lots together for an 18.4-acre lot for the additional campsites.

The campground also plans to build a new pavilion and bathhouse on the property and to widen the access road into the campground.

The final land development plan was approved, provided the campground meets the conditions imposed by the engineering firm of Rettew Associates.

One of the conditions include the campground having a speed limit study done for the entire length of Leven Road as well as a study of a no-parking option for both sides of Leven Road from Lincoln Highway East to the campground entrance.

Another condition is that the campground needs to provide a clear site triangle easement agreement for the portions of the clear site triangle at the intersection of Leven Road and Lincoln Highway East.

The campground, which is owned by Bird-in-Hand Corp., is served by on-lot water and public sewer and is located within the Gordonville Village Growth Area. It is open from March to November.

Closer Look at Glacier Natl. Park Concessions

August 26, 2013 by · Comments Off on Closer Look at Glacier Natl. Park Concessions 

Saint Mary Lake in Glacier National Park

The details of how Glacier National Park’s longtime hospitality partner lost the bidding war for a new concessions contract to the behemoth concessioner Xanterra Parks and Resorts are still emerging.

And while managers of the veteran concessioner, Glacier Park Inc., are understandably shocked and disappointed — having submitted a robust proposal and enjoyed a decades-long home field advantage — industry insiders say the shift comes during a sweeping transition within the beleaguered National Park Service (NPS), the Flathead Beacon reported.

At a time of continuing budget cuts under sequestration, the concessioner’s role in keeping the national park system viable has never been more important, said Derrick Crandall, counselor for the National Parks Hospitality Association (NPHA), the national trade organization of concessioners working in the park system. The clarion call rings particularly true as the parks agency eyes deep-pocketed hospitality outfits that may be better suited to help offset federal budget cuts that have chewed into visitor services through sequestration, leading to maintenance backlogs, limited operating hours and even campground and park closures.

Derrick Crandall, counselor for the National Parks Hospitality Association

“I would say there is more reason for the park service to think in terms of a changed relationship with the concessions community now than there ever has been before,” said Crandall, who in his role at NPHA represents both companies. “Am I surprised? Yes. I am surprised, because I think GPI put together an excellent bid and holds other advantages as well, like the four hotels blanketing the park, which are synergistic to their business. The fact that Xanterra won means they put together a very unique, very innovative and exciting proposal.”

Aggressive Offer

The terms and details of the 16-year contract have not yet been released publicly, but Crandall, who also is president of the American Recreation Coalition (ARC), speculated that the company, which holds the primary concessions contracts for Yellowstone National Park, the nation’s oldest, as well as Zion, Death Valley, Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore national parks, likely made an aggressive and generous offer.

The contract to run the park’s lodging, food and beverage, retail, transportation and other visitor services has been held by Glacier Park Inc. (GPI) since 1981, when the Hummel brothers of Arizona sold the family-run institution to Greyhound Food Management and a contract was renegotiated. The bidding process to award a new contract began in December 2012 and was the first official rebidding process undertaken since the contract was awarded to GPI 32 years ago.

In reviewing the proposals by bidders, a National Park Service selection committee considers five sets of criteria and assigns a numerical score to each field, ranging from franchise fees to facility maintenance, food services and transportation and lodging.

“It’s like a test. And on this particular test, Xanterra scored higher,” Crandall said.

“They had the best offer,” Glacier Park spokeswoman Denise Germann said. “We will move forward and we anticipate a smooth transition.”

In addition to having had an advantage as the incumbent bidder, GPI already has an estimated $22 million in possessory interest in Glacier Park, giving it a competitive advantage over companies facing a larger initial investment of some $33 million, which can be difficult to recoup during a short operating season.

And with properties outside the park but in close proximity to its boundary, including The Lodge at St. Mary, Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier, Grouse Mountain Lodge in Whitefish and Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton, Alberta, GPI has enjoyed the advantage of diverting overflow guests from its five lodges within the park, which are full for much of the summer season, to its other facilities.

Resources a Key

Now owned by Viad Corp., more than 60% of GPI’s business exists outside the park, and the Canadian government recently awarded the company a 42-year contract to manage visitor services at Waterton Lakes National Park. GPI will continue to own and operate those properties.

But the National Park Service Concessions Management Improvement Act of 1998 was designed specifically to discourage companies from holding never-ending contracts, thereby making the bidding process more competitive and inviting other companies to bid for the contracts more frequently.

Joseph K. Fassler, the chairman of GPI who serves on the board of the NPHA, couldn’t say what gave Xanterra the leverage to prevail, but he suspects it boils down to resources.

“Not knowing what they proposed and knowing exactly what we proposed, we were shocked,” he said. “We don’t know what they saw, but they saw something in Xanterra. It usually comes down to money. It’s not supposed to be an advantage but it is.”

Money is precisely what the park service is lacking, having been forced to endure deep budget cuts that have sunk funding for national parks 13% below 2010 levels, while the construction budget has declined by nearly two-thirds over the last decade.

NPS Looks to Supplement Budget

As a result, places like Yellowstone and Glacier national parks have been forced to close visitor centers and campgrounds, shorten hours and seasons, and eliminate ranger positions. Given that climate, the National Park Service is eyeing alternative funding measures to supplement its budget, Crandall said.

Jon Jarvis

Last month, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a three-hour session to discuss how concessioners can help develop an alternative model that augments revenues and improves the quality of visitor services at a time of diminishing resources.

At the hearing, National Park Service director Jon Jarvis testified that the agency is willing and eager to explore ways in which the agency’s partnership with concessioners can help offset the budget deficit.

“The National Park Service is open, of course, to ideas that could supply added funding and appreciates the work of the Bipartisan Policy Center, the National Parks Conservation Association, and the National Park Hospitality Association to help identify and promote a wide range of ideas,” he said.

There currently exists a $12 billion backlog in maintenance projects, about $7.5 billion of which is described by the NPS as critical. Roads and related infrastructure constitute almost 50 percent of the entire backlog, while concessioner-operated buildings account for about $1 billion of the maintenance backlog.

According to Crandall, the National Park Service is actively looking to cut barriers that are blocking efforts to reduce the backlog.

“The park service has never had this kind of scrutiny, this kind of pressure, and they are looking for ways to turn this train around. It is going to take them a little bit of time because, suffice it to say, 2014 will not be a kind year to the budget of the park service,” Crandall said. “There will be continued cuts and perhaps closures. That is where the National Park Service is headed right now and they are obviously interested in a concessions operator that can invest in needed infrastructure, maintenance, attract more visitors, and pay a higher franchise fee that will become increasingly important.”

“As we see revenue fees dry up the concessioner will become very significant,” he added.

The Anschutz Connection

Xanterra is owned by Philip Frederick Anschutz (shown at left), one of the wealthiest billionaires in the nation (Forbes estimates his net worth at $7.6 billion). He also owns the Denver-based Anschutz Exploration Corp., the company that until last year was drilling exploratory wells along the 400,000-acre swath of land that abuts Glacier Park’s eastern boundary, on land occupied by the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

Anschutz halted drilling and shut down the exploration project on Blackfeet lands one month before the deadline for prospective bidders vying for Glacier Park’s concessions contract was due, saying the decision had nothing to do with controversy over the competing interests and everything to do with an unproductive oil play.

Critics of the Anschutz-Xanterra connection say the competing interests are unacceptable – an online petition asking the park to select another concessioner has gathered 5,500 signatures – but the company has since surrendered all leases not within a spacing unit for a producing well. The company says it will reclaim drilling sites and access roads of non-producing wells.

Crandall dismissed the argument that Anschutz bid on the park’s concessions contract in order to establish an inside route to oil and gas activities on nearby lands.

“Phil Anschutz purchased Xanterra because he likes being a partner with the National Park Service. He has no Machiavellian kind of a scheme to try to use his operations in the national parks to somehow advance his activities outside the park,” Crandall said. “I would say look at the scale of dollars. They make a whole lot more with oil and gas activity than running tourism enterprises in Glacier National Park. He didn’t get to be billionaire by being dumb. You don’t make enough profit renting rooms and dishing out huckleberry pie in Glacier National Park to in anyway compare with the money you make in the oil and gas industry.”

Jan Knox, chief of concessions at Glacier National Park, said the 1998 legislation set forth a range of criteria that the selection panel reviews when awarding such a contract and Xanterra came out ahead in the ranking.

“Under each of the principle selection criteria we ask questions,” Knox said. “In some cases, they might score better if they can show that a more robust maintenance staff will take better care of resources in the park, or that they have the ability to maintain historic structures. We ask them about their ability to meet the requirements of the facilities that are unique to Glacier.”

Pending a congressional review period, the new 16-year visitor services contract with Xanterra will begin in January 2014.

 

 

VIDEO: Protests Building on Xanterra Contract

August 20, 2013 by · Comments Off on VIDEO: Protests Building on Xanterra Contract 

Bob Brigham, originator of the petition drive that opposes selection of Xanterra Parks & Resorts Inc., as the new concessioner for Glacier National Park.

Click here to watch a video, courtesy of KTMF-TV, Missoula, Mont., about the following story.

This January, Glacier National Park will welcome Xanterra Parks & Resorts Inc. as a new concessioner, but some 5,500 people say they believe these two make bad bedfellows.

Xanterra, currently operating in Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and several other national and state parks, will now take over for Glacier Park, Inc. who has held a contract with the park since 1981.

“This is the major concessions contract in the park and it includes food and lodging, retail services, transportation services, and other visitor services across the park,” said Denise Germann, a spokeswoman for the park.

The concession’s contract went out for offers this past spring and all bids were scored numerically. Xanterra had the highest score, in turn leading to a surprising number of dissidents, even for the man who started the petition protesting Xanterra in the park, Bob Brigham.

“I read a story in The Missoulian about Xanterra applying to win this lucrative concession contract and thought it was just absurd considering that they are owned by a billionaire oil man who is currently fracking for oil just outside the park,” said Brigham.

Brigham’s online petition already has over 5,500 signatures. He hopes this will be enough to give his cause some visibility.

“The current status is that there’s been preliminary approval of Xanterra receiving the contract. What that did is it now shifted this to Congress, so it’s now up to Montana’s congressional delegation to pick up the ball on this and run,” explained Brigham.

According to Brigham, congress has 60 days to act. Brigham plans to prompt all signees before the end of the week to contact their representatives — to ask them to help reverse this endorsement of what he views as a threat to Glacier National Park.

Click here to read an earlier story in Woodall’s Campground Management about this issue.

 

 

Concession Switch at Glacier N.P. a ‘Surprise’

August 15, 2013 by · Comments Off on Concession Switch at Glacier N.P. a ‘Surprise’ 

The Lake McDonald Lodge in Glacier National Park

Glacier Park Inc. officials were shocked Tuesday (Aug. 13) to learn the Glacier National Park visitor services contract their company has held for more than 30 years had been awarded to Xanterra Parks and Resorts Inc., a large concession company that holds similar contracts in Yellowstone, Zion and Grand Canyon national parks.

The contract to run the park’s lodging, food and beverage, retail, transportation and other visitor services has been held by Glacier Park Inc. since 1981. The bidding process to award a new contract began in December 2012 and was the first official rebidding process undertaken since the contract was awarded to Glacier Park Inc. 32 years ago, The Missoulian, Missoula, Mont., reported.

“It was a surprise,” said Ron Cadrette, vice president and general manager of Glacier Park Inc. “We only heard the news less than 24 hours ago. We’re still organizing ourselves.”

Pending a congressional review period, the new 16-year visitor services contract with Xanterra will begin in January 2014.

The contract calls for management of Lake McDonald Lodge, Apgar Village Inn, Rising Sun Motor Inn, Swiftcurrent Inn and Many Glacier Hotel, as well as the Two Medicine Camp Store, public showers and laundry facilities, and Glacier’s iconic red bus tours.

Park officials estimate the concessions managed by the contract holder will generate roughly $18.5 million annually.

“We put in what we thought was an excellent bid,” Cadrette said Wednesday afternoon from his office in Columbia Falls. “We really don’t have any insight into what the discrimination factors were that put Xanterra in the winning position.”

Glacier Park Inc. has requested the National Park Service conduct a “post-bid review” of the process, Cadrette said.

The visitor services contract represents 40% of Glacier Park Inc.’s business, Cadrette said.

At peak season, the company employs 1,200 people.

Glacier Park Inc. was first awarded a 25-year visitor services contract in 1981. Beginning in 2006, Glacier Park Inc. was awarded what became the first of eight one-year extensions of that contract. The most recent one-year extension expires in December.

That long period of extensions was the only negative aspect of the company’s 30 years of service to Glacier, Cadrette said.

“When you go by year-by-year extensions, it makes future planing and investment challenging. Other than that, it was just a wonderful relationship and experience,” he said.

Xanterra is set to work with Glacier Park Inc. during the transition period.

As the visitor services contract holder for Glacier, Xanterra will pay a minimum franchise fee of 1% of annual gross receipts. That money will be returned to the government each year.

The contract also includes a repair and maintenance reserve of 2.35% and a “Red Bus Rehabilitation Reserve” of 2.5%, each based on annual gross receipts.

The contract calls for major upgrades on some of the park’s most popular hotels and lodges. It also requires Xanterra to carry out a plan to maintain and eventually renovate the park’s fleet of red buses.

Owned by Philip Anschutz, Xanterra provides visitor services for a wide variety of national and state parks and owns a long list of lodges and tourist attractions around the country.

Denver-based Anschutz Exploration Corp. announced in May that it would shut down its search for oil and gas on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation alongside Glacier after a petition was circulated opposing Xanterra’s bid.

Moving forward, Cadrette said, Glacier Park Inc. will focus on its businesses outside the park.

Click here to read the entire story.

 

 

Xanterra: Next Glacier Natl. Park Concessioner

August 14, 2013 by · Comments Off on Xanterra: Next Glacier Natl. Park Concessioner 

Glacier National Park’s longtime concessioner will be replaced starting next year.

The National Park Service selected Xanterra Parks & Resorts Inc. to provide visitor services in Glacier National Park for the next 16 years, the Daily Interlake, Kalispell, Mont., reported.

The decision announced Tuesday (Aug. 13) means an end to the concessions work for Glacier Park Inc., which has held the Glacier contract since 1981.

Glacier Park Inc. President Cindy Ognjanov said the news was a “big shock.”

“Obviously we’re very disappointed. We thought we had a good proposal,” Ognjanov said. “We do wish [Xanterra] well.”

The park concessions contract is worth approximately $18.5 million in yearly gross receipts, according to a news release from the park service.

The new contract is anticipated to begin in January 2014.

Xanterra now will be responsible for concession operations at five lodging locations, 10 food and beverage locations and eight retail locations, plus road-based tours, Red Bus maintenance and other services in the park.

This fall, Xanterra is expected to work with Glacier Park Inc. during a transition period.

Xanterra Parks & Resorts Inc. provides visitor services in national and state parks across the country, including Yellowstone, Crater Lake, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Rocky Mountain and Zion national parks and Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Click here to read the entire story.

 

 

Feisty Cub Forces Glacier Campground Closure

August 6, 2013 by · Comments Off on Feisty Cub Forces Glacier Campground Closure 

A scenic view from Rising Sun Campground in Glacier National Park. Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor

A bit of a role reversal to the Goldilocks story has led Glacier National Park officials to temporarily close the Rising Sun Campground.

Seems the “somebody” who’s been attempting to sleep in someone’s bed here, has been a bear, The Missoulian, Missoula, Mont., reported.

Rising Sun Campground is located where “the mountains meet the prairies,” just west of St. Mary.

Early Sunday what is believed to be a small sub-adult black bear approached an occupied tent in the campground, located on the park’s east side, and lay down on a corner of it. The campers awoke and frightened it away by yelling.

The incident follows on the heels of two others in the campground in the past month, including one where a bear snatched a pillow from under a sleeping camper’s head.

All three incidents are believed to involve the same young bear. In the third, a bear rifled through clothing along the shores of St. Mary Lake, where the campground is located.

No one was injured in any of the incidents.

Denise Germann, management assistant, said the bear does not appear to be looking for a food reward, nor has it received one.

“But it is learning to approach and handle human materials,” Germann said. “Park rangers and wildlife managers will conduct aversive conditioning, or negative reinforcement, to attempt to modify the bear’s behavior.”

That means trapping and tagging the bear, and using hazing techniques involving bean bags, rubber bullets and/or noise stimulus.

The conditioning may take a few days.

A grizzly bear has been sighted in the vicinity of the campground as well. Because the trap could attract it, the entire 83-spot campground is being closed temporarily.

Officials had closed the upper loop Monday and limited occupancy in the lower loop to hard-sided camping after the latest incident, and announced the entire campground would close starting Tuesday.

Nightly Rising Sun Campground programs will move to the St. Mary Campground during the closure.

Rising Sun Campground is a first-come, first-served facility. Officials don’t know how long it will be closed.

 

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