Glacier Bay Lodge saved from closure

NPS and Aramark agree to 2-year extension of contract for Gustavus lodge
In this undated photo, visitors get ready to kayak in front of the Glacier Bay Lodge.

Business owners of Gustavus can breathe a little easier for now.

After several weeks of negotiations, the National Park Service and Aramark have agreed to extend their 10-year contract. The current contract, which was set to expire on Dec. 31, has been extended through 2016.

Joann Lesh is the owner of the Gustavus Inn and the president of the Gustavus Visitors Association. Lesh said the lodge — and especially the contract with Aramark — brings security to small business owners who depend on summer tourism.

“The Glacier Bay Lodge is a public building and our guests are in there daily,” Lesh said. “It’s not just a hotel; it’s a visitor center, a gift shop, they show nightly slide shows and movies. It’s an investment in our community.”

Gustavus residents feared that the lodge might close after the Park Service received no bids, not even from Aramark, on a new 10-year concessions contract for the lodge. The new contract required about $231,000 of deferred repairs to the lodge and 3 percent of future gross receipts to be set aside for continued maintenance.

Glacier Bay National Park
Superintendent Susan Boudreau said the complete terms of the extension haven’t been made public yet. Boudreau said one key change to the contract was cutting the day boat tours to six days a week instead of seven.

Boudreau said the Park Service will be evaluating the financial feasibility of the lodge to develop a more attractive contract.

“I think the most important thing that the businesses need to know is that we’re doing our best to ensure there are no interruptions between the extension and the 2016 contract,” Boudreau said.

Lesh said the Gustavus business community would be working closely with the Park Service to give input on the next proposed contract. She said she thinks the contract needs to be longer than the standard 10 years to make it profitable for a private business to operate the lodge.

“We’re definitely going to be following the development of the new prospectus and trying to help make sure it’s attractive for private businesses,” Lesh said. “We’re not fighting the Park Service. We’re in this together for the health of the community.”

• Contact reporter Jennifer Canfield at 523-2279 or at jennifer.n.canfield@juneauempire.com.

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