POLL QUESTION

New Mexico firm chosen over Bar Harbor company for Acadia National Park retail concessions

Posted Sept. 25, 2013, at 11:04 a.m.
Last modified Sept. 25, 2013, at 5:51 p.m.

Poll Question

ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — A Bar Harbor company that has been operating retail businesses inside the park for 80 years will not have its contract renewed, officials announced Monday.

Instead, starting next March, a firm from New Mexico will operate three gift shops and a restaurant in Maine’s only national park.

The current contractor, Acadia Corp., has been operating in the park since 1933, according to officials. It started with a gift shop at the top of Cadillac Mountain and since then has added gift shops at Thunder Hole and Jordan Pond as well as the Jordan Pond House restaurant.

In addition to the seasonal sites it operates in the park, Acadia Corp. owns and operates seven seasonal shops in downtown Bar Harbor.

Officials with the National Park Service announced Monday that Dawnland LLC will be the new concessioner at the three retail sites in the park. Dawnland is a subsidiary of Ortega National Parks LLC, which holds concessions contracts in Death Valley, Hawaii Volcanoes and Carlsbad Caverns national parks and at the Muir Woods and White Sands national monuments. Ortega also owns or operates beach clubs, restaurants and shops in New York, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, and Santa Fe, N.M.

“We are excited to work with Dawnland, who will provide the exceptional services that visitors have come to expect at Acadia National Park,” Dennis Reidenbach, northeast regional director for the National Park Service, said Monday in a prepared statement. “We also thank current concessioner Acadia Corporation for its role as a long-standing partner.”

According to the park service, Dawnland was selected by a panel of park service officials — none of whom work for Acadia — through a competitive process prescribed by federal law. Officials with Acadia National Park referred questions about the concessions contract award to the National Park Service’s Northeast Region office in Philadelphia.

Jonathan Meade, chief of business service in the regional office, said Wednesday that park service officials understand that a decision to not renew a contract with a local company may not be well-received by everyone. He said the park service does factor in a company’s local history when awarding contracts for outfitting or guide services but that specific local experience does not factor into concessions contracts.

The purpose of the federal law that lays out the park service’s competitive contract award process, which Congress passed in 1998, is to make the process as fair and objective as possible while making contracts affordable for taxpayers and park visitors, Meade said.

“The National Park Service certainly appreciates that a change such as this is going to affect people in different ways,” Meade said.

The change in contractors in Acadia National Park is not the first time Ortega has been selected to replace a longtime concessioner in a public park. In 2010, the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department decided to award Ortega a contract to operate the Stow Lake Boathouse in Golden Gate Park after a local family-owned company had run it for several decades, according to San Francisco media reports. The resulting dispute over the decision wound up in the court system.

Attempts to directly contact Shane Ortega, president of Ortega National Parks, were unsuccessful Wednesday but in a voice mail message, he said that the company was “very excited” about being the concessioner in Acadia National Park.

Ortega added that the company plans to buy from the same wholesalers who sold to Acadia Corp. and to offer employment to people who want to continue working at the park concession sites.

“We’re looking forward to good partnerships, to working with the people there,” Ortega said.

David Woodside, president of Acadia Corp., said Tuesday that his company was “very disappointed” the National Park Service decided not to renew its contract. He said the company has gotten “tremendous support” over the years from local officials with Acadia National Park, who played no role in the decision.

“We feel like we’ve done a great job over the years,” Woodside said. “We’ve done everything the National Park Service has asked us to do.”

Woodside said Acadia Corp. employs about 200 people every summer, of whom maybe 120 work in the park or in support roles for the company’s park operations. Without the park contract, he estimated, Acadia Corp. likely will have around 50 employees next summer.

Woodside said that Acadia Corp. has gotten exemplary reviews from the park service over the years and has made an effort to sell Maine-made products whenever it can. Because Acadia Corp. is based in Bar Harbor, he added, it has contributed more to the local economy than any out-of-state firm likely will, he said.

“The state of Maine is losing out in this deal,” Woodside said.

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