The National Park Hospitality Association thanks you for participating in the
2017 ANNUAL MEETING:
Concessioners and National Parks: Responding to a New Administration and a New Congress
The meeting overview is available as a PDF here
The meeting registration form is available here
NPHA’s 2017 Annual Meeting was held on March 21-22, 2017, at the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel, 2800 South Potomac Avenue, Arlington, VA 22202. The full schedule for the meeting is attached.
The first event of the meeting was a session of the executive committee. Participants included:
- Terry MacRae, Chairman
- Alex Klein, Vice Chairman
- Jim McCaleb, Vice Chairman
- John Schoppman, Vice Chairman
- Pam Pitts, Secretary
- Carol Metzler, Treasurer
- Derrick Crandall, Counselor
The annual meeting of the National Park Hospitality Association was opened at 8 AM by Chairman Terry MacRae. All members present identified themselves and Secretary Pam Pitts notified the Chairman that a quorum of members was present. The Chairman reviewed items in the meeting packet, including a new infographic on the park concessions industry and our policy position handout, and reported on recent NPHA activities. He then introduced the Acting Director of the National Park Service, Michael Reynolds, for comments and open conversation. The Acting Director expressed his support for concessioner efforts serving park visitors, discussed new directions and pending questions under the leadership of President Donald Trump and Secretary Ryan Zinke and predicted that the new Administration would be generally supportive of concessioner activities. A very healthy discussion followed regarding post-Centennial promotion, NPS funding prospects, the status of controversies such as the hostile workplace reports and strategies for better communications and coordination of NPS and concessioner efforts. On the letter, the Acting Director urged greater efforts to meet regularly with park superintendents and expressed interest in encouraging a modification of Disney’s regular “Good Show/Bad Show” walkthroughs by joint top NPS/concessioner representatives.
The next topic was a report by Bill Butts of Forever Resorts on the newly released “2017 North American Camping Report” by KOA. Copies of the summary of the report were provided and and the full report is available here:
Bill Butts reported that the number of North American campers is large and growing, and that fast-growing segments of the American public are well-represented in this growth. He emphasized that these new campers seek services often not provided in national park campgrounds, including WiFi, food and electricity. He announced plans to work with KOA to arrange either a meeting or a webinar with KOA to determine additional useful information collected during the three years of surveys done by KOA. The 2017 report is based upon a survey of more than 2900 adults and some 400 teens.
Derrick Crandall then shared information on a recent report by the Center for American Progress, a national think-tank set up by John Podesta. The report is entitled “Yosemite for Sale” and criticizes the National Park Service for inadequate protection of federal intellectual property and alleges that the agency has failed to require concessioners to fulfill contractual requirements for maintenance. Mr. Crandall reported that the CAP document had factual errors and its finding were challenged by the NPS Commercial Services staff. He outlined planned communications with the organization. The report is available here:
Br. Butts and Mr. Crandall also reviewed the General Accountability Office Report #17-136, entitled “NATIONAL PARK SERVICE: Process Exists for Prioritizing Asset Maintenance Decisions, but Evaluation Could Improve Efforts.” The assessment is that the report findings and recommendations failed to significantly highlight the many opportunities for improving the agency concessions program, despite interviews with 21 concessioners. The GAO report is available here:
Pam Pitts then moderated a panel comprised of four national experts in NPS concessions and NPHA associate members: Jon Simon, Kevin Garden, Jennifer Shah, Alan Saltman. The panel discussed the Kettle Falls Marina concessions issue and the related topic of better strategies for resolving disputes. The panel also discussed issues raised by NPHA members. As the panel concluded, it encouraged suggestions from several members that U.S. Senators who would soon participate in confirmation hearings for key Interior Department officials could play a very helpful role by encouraging the nominees to support agreement by NPS to allow GAO oversight over concessions contracts and support for clarification of jurisdiction in the federal court system.
The annual meeting then discussed the future of the National Parks Promotion Council and post-Centennial promotion for both domestic and international visitors. The importance of the IPW 2017 show was highlighted by Chairman MacRae. Several members expressed offers to assist at the show, both financially and to man the NPPC booth. Chairman MacRae told the members he would be inviting voluntary support of $2500 and would place the topic of NPPC on the fall agenda.
The nominating committee submitted its recommendation for members of the NPHA Board of Directors for 2017-19:
- Chris Belland
- George (Chip) Campsen
- Gerard Gabrys
- Bradford Hill
- Alex Klein
- Terry MacRae
- Carol Metzler
- Pam Pitts
- John Schoppmann
- Scott Socha
- Andrew Todd
- Ed Wimberly
Matthew Adams moved to close nominations and elect the nominees. The motion was seconded by Alex Klein and was approved unanimously.
Mr. MacRae suggested that the fall meeting of NPHA be held during the first half of November 2017 in either the San Francisco or Denver areas and requested that the NPHA do a poll on dates and discuss with the NPS Commercial Services leadership the two locations.
The meeting of the NPHA adjourned at 12:10 PM, and was reconvened at 1:00 PM with a key group of NPS officials, led by Commercial Services Chief Brian Borda. The four-hour session included presentations on:
- The NPS Social Science Program, including collection of visitor-related information;
- The status of LSI determinations;
- Concession Contract Proposal "Best Practices;"
- The 2016 NPS Centennial Act and its various provisions;
- Issues unaddressed by the 2016 legislation, including recognition for excellence in contract performance; and
- Congressional concerns about sales in parks of non-USA-produced items.
Following the conclusion of the annual meeting, the Board of Directors met and elected the following officers:
- Chairman: Terry MacRae
- Vice Chairs: Alex Klein, John Schoppmann, Scott Socha, Andrew Todd
- Secretary: Pam Pitts
- Treasurer: Carol Metzler
During the reception and dinner, NPHA members discussed key issues including NPS policies and the financial challenges of the agency with OMB Interior Branch Chief Craig Crutchfield and Bill McGrath, Staff Director of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on Interior, Energy and Environment. Mr. McGrath discussed the Subcommittee’s plans to hold a hearing on related topics on April 5. At the dinner, the many years of service provided to NPHA by Jim McCaleb were described and appreciation was expressed along with the presentation of some mementos: a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol by Wyoming’s Senators, with accompanying certification and letter; and customized artwork of Yellowstone by Eric Dowdle, featuring images of Jim and Mary McCaleb.
On Wednesday, NPHA members were transported by Old Town Trolley to Capitol Hill and participated in a very successful briefing of key House of Representatives staff, including the lead representatives from the Federal Lands and Interior Oversight panels. Meetings were then held with several Members, including U.S. Representative Tom McClintock (R-CA), Chair, Federal Lands Subcommittee, and U.S. Representative Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Chair, Interior Subcommittee, Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
At 1:00 PM, NPHA members met in the U.S. Capitol for candid conversations with the top staffers of five key U.S. Senators: Senators Murkowski (Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee as well as the Committee on Appropriations’ Interior Subcommittee); Cantwell (Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee); Portman (Senate Finance Committee and Chief Sponsor of the Centennial act); Wyden (Ranking Member, Senate Finance Committee and key member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee); and Daines (Chairman, Subcommittee on National Parks). The 90-minute session included a briefing of the staff on key concessioner issues as well as wide-ranging discussions on the infrastructure initiative and working on a bipartisan strategy to address park visitor needs. The day concluded with a warm and productive meeting with U.S. Senator John Barrasso (Chair, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and second in seniority on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources about inclusion of park needs in the emerging infrastructure legislation.