U.S. National Parks

U.S. National Parks

Many of the nation’s most iconic national parks were originally developed by private stage coach and rail road companies, creating a relationship between the parks and private concessions that have existed for over 150 years. Today, concessioners operating in U.S. National Parks gross well over $1 billion annually with sales in Yosemite exceeding $250,000,000.
 
Yosemite’s first concession was established in 1884 when Mr. and Mrs. John Degnan established a bakery and store. By the time the National Park Service was created in 1916, hotels, stores, camps, a dairy, garage, and other concessions operated in the park, by a variety of operators including the Curry Company.
 
The Curry Company was created in 1899 to develop and operate Curry Village in Yosemite Valley. In the 1920s the National Park Service decided to limit the number of operators in the parks. Subsequent to this decision The Curry Company and its rival, the Yosemite National Park Company, merged in 1925 to form the Yosemite Park & Curry Company. The first major project of the company was the development of the 99 room, 150,000 square foot Ahwahnee Hotel, completed in 1928.
 
Over several years, Rick Hill assisted the National Parks and Conservation Association in developing a complete understanding of the issues and economics of commercialism in the national parks. Among the many issues uncovered, it was found that fees paid by the concessioners were often in the 1.5% of sales range. These low rents had long been rationalized by the expense of operating in remote locations, the high cost of providing non-profitable services and the capital investments made in the facilities of the concessioners. Research conducted by Mr. Hill found that sales in the largest parks were highly profitable with limited competition and that many of the major assets had been fully depreciated. He testified in Senate and Congressional hearings to present his findings and wrote significant portions of the Concession Reform Act that was adopted in 1998.