Judge rules against Maine firm in dispute over Acadia concessions contract

Posted March 17, 2014, at 12:41 p.m.
Last modified March 17, 2014, at 4:20 p.m.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — A local firm that operated retail sites in Acadia National Park for 80 years has lost its appeal of a decision by the National Park Service not to renew its contract, according to a company official.

David Woodside, president of Acadia Corp., indicated Saturday that a judge presiding in the U.S. Court of Federal Appeals ruled on Friday to uphold the park service’s decision to award a 10-year contract for operating concessions in Acadia National Park to Dawnland LLC.

“While the contract still is being reviewed in Congress, this judgment effectively ends our appeal,” Woodside wrote in a prepared statement issued Saturday.

He added that a redacted version of the judge’s decision is expected to be released “in the next week or so.”

Woodside said in the statement that his firm is grateful for the “overwhelming” support it has received from local residents, officials with Acadia National Park and Maine’s congressional delegation. He said the company plans to continue operating its retail shops in downtown Bar Harbor, where it expects to employ approximately 50 people this summer.

For decades, Acadia Corp. operated the Jordan Pond House restaurant and gift shops at Jordan Pond, Thunder Hole and the Cadillac Mountain summit. Those sites now are expected to be operated by Dawnland for at least the next 10 years.

Acadia Corp. had filed an appeal in the federal appeals court in January. Acadia Corp. argued that the park service’s decision to award the concessions contract to Dawnland, which is a subsidiary of New Mexico-based Ortega National Parks, was a “sham,” and the park service “committed serious errors, acted arbitrarily, capriciously and not in accordance with the law” in choosing Dawnland.

Shane Ortega, president of Ortega National Parks, confirmed Monday in an email that the court ruled in favor of Dawnland and added that Acadia Corp.’s claims in its appeal were “untrue” or “half truths.” He said Dawnland was confident that the appeal would be denied.

Woodside had said that because the park service has not yet signed a final contract with Dawnland, the new concessioner might not be able to open the sites by the traditional opening dates in May.

Ortega said Monday, however, that his company plans to have most of the concession operations open by mid-May. It will be a “herculean task” to open the three gifts shops and the grab-and-go food service at the Jordan Pond House in only two months’ time, he said, especially without having made any “serious investments” at the sites over the past couple of months.

“But we have accomplished herculean tasks before,” Ortega wrote. “To open a restaurant that has 2,000 turns a day is of course trickier. I would bank on the [Jordan Pond House] restaurant being open in the first few days of June (somewhere from the 1st to the 3rd). We will try to move mountains to be faster, but I think that it is better to set realistic expectations.”

Jonathan Meade, chief of business services in the park service’s regional office in Philadelphia, said Monday that the park service is expected to sign the final contract with Dawnland on April 7, after the 60-day contract review period in Congress comes to a close.

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