The National Park Service is in negotiations with Aramark to extend a concessions contract at the Glacier Bay Lodge. Aramark, along with Huna Totem Corporation, has operated the lodge for 10 years and this year decided not to bid on a new contract. If the lodge were to close, local businesses that thrive on tourism could be affected.
The park service put a contract out to bid in January which included a list of 192 necessary repairs that would cost an estimated $231,000. The repairs were part of Aramark’s contract but were not made. The contract received no bids.
Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich have since taken an interest in the issue. In June, Murkowski wrote a letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. Murkowski blamed the NPS for making the contract non-viable and unprofitable for potential bidders. Begich sent a letter to NPS director Jonathan Jarvis stressing the importance of the lodge to the community of Gustavus and the Southeast tourism industry.
In 2011, the park had 432,414 visitors — most from cruises. About 500 people live in Gustavus year-round, many of them work seasonally in the fishing and tourism industries.
During a recent Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing, Murkowski addressed Jarvis about the possibility of liquidating the lodge.
“I think we need to look at whether or not this might be a situation where facilities need to be sold by the park service,” Murkowski said. “If you can’t make it work through these concession contracts, if we’re not getting anybody that is interested, it does make you wonder whether or not the best option here might be to sell the lodge there in Glacier Bay National Park to a private entity.”
The NPS currently has an estimated $11.5 billion maintenance back log. Senate Republicans, including Murkowski, last week proposed that the NPS tap into its Land and Water Conservation Fund to pay for overdue maintenance on park service properties and roads.