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Yosemite contract is step toward reform.

The award through competitive bidding of the Yosemite National Park concessions contract--the largest and most lucrative within the National Park System--demonstrates the benefits of reforming the concessions system.

Two House of Representatives subcommittees held a hearing March 24 to review the Bush Administration's proposal to award the Yosemite contract to Delaware North Companies, Inc., of Buffalo, New York.

"We believe that competitive bidding for concessions contracts is the best way to pick the best concessioner and to obtain a fair, reasonable return for the government," NPCA President Paul Pritchard testified. The current concessioner, Yosemite Park and Curry Company, pays less than 1 percent of its gross receipts to the U.S. Treasury in franchise fees. By contrast, if awarded the contract, Delaware North has agreed to pay between 4.7 and 5.2 percent of gross receipts into a fund for capital improvements in Yosemite.

The Park Service has determined that the overall benefit of the new contract could be as high as 20.2 percent of gross revenues, because Delaware North will in effect purchase concessioner-built park buildings for the government. The contract also outlines a series of changes that would significantly reduce development in Yosemite Valley, restoring large areas of it to a natural state.

But Pritchard noted that since the 1965 law that governs concessions gives incumbent concessioners a preferential right of renewal, there will not be the same kind of competitive bidding at the end of the contract.

"We are about to take a great leap forward in Yosemite, but with a bungee cord attached...the Concessions Policy Act of 1965," Pritchard said. "The future lack of competition in Yosemite, and at all other parks, will remain government policy until Congress amends the 1965 act. Financial losses to the government will continue, and concessioners will continue to hold the upper hand in negotiations with NPS."

Concessions reform legislation introduced by Sen. Dale Bumpers (D-Ark.) and Rep. Jan Meyers (R-Kans.) is designed to end the kind of 30-year monopoly on services enjoyed by the Curry Company, increase the fees paid to the government, and pump those funds back into the park system.
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Title Annotation:Yosemite National Park concession contract
Author:Rancourt, Linda M.
Publication:National Parks
Date:May 1, 1993
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