Frequently Asked Questions about Concessionaires
What is a concessionaire?
We are a private company that runs recreation facilities,
like campgrounds, for government organizations (like the US
Forest Service) on government land. Typically, this
relationship is embodied in what is called a "Special Use
How does a Special Use Permit work?
Special Use Permits are entered into with private companies
for a defined number of years (usually 5-10). Though the
terms vary, in most cases the permit grants the private company
the right to operate on and collect revenues from a certain
site. In addition, the private company is required to pay
all normal operating expenses. Typically, the private
company pays a fee for this permit, usually calculated as a
percentage of revenue collected.
How are these permits granted?
The government conducts a competitive bid process.
Selection criterea typically include evaluation of the company's
qualifications, its financial stability, its operations plans,
and the percentage of revenue bid as a return to government.
Once granted, can the private
company do anything it wants with the site?
Hardly. We operate under a very detailed set of
guidelines that specify the condition the facilities must be
kept in, the fees we can charge, the training we must provide,
etc. In fact, the documents that outline our operating
plan and restrictions often can fill a 3-inch binder.
Failure to comply with these requirements will cause a
concessionaire to lose their permit.
Where does my money I pay for
camping fees go?
The vast majority of your fee goes to pay operating expenses
at that site, including cleaning, maintenance, safety patrols,
etc. A large portion also goes to the government in fees.
Because of efficiencies in private vs. government operation,
these fees we pay are typically higher than the what the
government was making running the facility on its own. By
law, at least on US Forest Service lands, the fees we pay to the
government stay in the local forest and are used for improvement
and new construction.
Don't my taxes pay pay for all this
anyway? Why do I have to pay extra fees?
Unfortunately, it has been years since the tax money that
flows to the US Forest Service was sufficient to fund the
operations of all of its recreation facilities. Recent
administrations as well as the Congress have decided that
organizations like the US Forest Service must recover an
increasing part of their budget from users directly. The
same can be said in most states, as budget crises are constantly
threatening to close parks and recreation facilities.
This problem continues to get worse. For example, in
2002, due to fires and the mandate to help recover parts from
the Space Shuttle Columbia, most local forest rangers found
their discretionary recreation budgets slashed nearly to zero.
However, as a private operator, we were unaffected by these
mandates and we were able to maintain service and staffing
levels at their optimum levels. By putting operation of
recreation facilities in private hands, government recreation
managers can help protect recreation spending and keep parks