Trading Post could return in 2013, park officials say
Last modified: Nov. 1, 2012
Despite receiving no bids since the National Parks Service opened bidding this spring, the Superintendent of the NPS Phil Francis said the Northwest Trading Post could still return for next spring under different management.
Francis told the partnership that the NWTP was made unattractive to new bidders because they would be forced to essentially “buy-out” the nonprofit board that formerly ran the facility.
“In that situation, whoever would have bought this contract would have to deal with this possessory interest,” said Francis.
The federal government does have the ability to buy-out the current contract, according to Francis, which should make the property more attractive to other bidders.
The process could be lengthy, however, because the National Parks Service is undergoing an accounting overhaul, which could slow down buy-out operations.
Once the buy-out is complete, however, Francis told the partnership that a new prospectus would be issued for the Northwest Trading Post that will likely indicate to investors that the NWTP will offer a good rate of return.
For the past 54 years, the NWTP, located near the midpoint of the Blue Ridge Parkway, has sold gifts and craft items, including regional handicrafts from local artists.
Reportedly restrictive provisions in the National Park Service's 2013 contract may have left the non-profit board that currently runs the Northwest Trading Post with little desire to continue their agreement with the NPS.
In a letter dated Oct. 11, the Ashe Chamber of Commerce requested the support of Rep. Virginia Foxx to help the Northwest Trading Post to open for the 2013. Ashe Chamber Executive Director Cabot Hamilton has said the failure of the retailer to open next season would result in “a significant impact on tourism in Ashe County and the region if the NWTP were to be closed for a season.”
“As a result of the economic downturn, the NWTP Board of Directors decided to NOT renew their contract with the U.S. National Park Service in 2013,” read the letter. “The NWTP has been a unique and integral part of the Parkway and Ashe County for 54 years. ... Of major concern, impacting the NWTP's Board's decision, are the substantial financial considerations that the Park Service has demanded in the new contract making it extremely difficult to continue operations.”
In June, the NPS opened bidding on the Northwest Trading Post for the 2013 season according to the magazine National Parks Traveler.
“According to Southeast Region NPS Concession Management Specialist Mark Morgan, the Trading Post has been operated as a nonprofit for the last 20 years,” read the article. “The current contract requires an additional month of operation compared to the existing contract with an eight-month season to begin each year on April 1 rather than April 15, and end Nov. 30 rather than Nov. 15.”
Annual revenues since 2008 at the Northwest Trading Post have been approximately $300,000 with 2010 revenues reaching more than $305,000.