Grand Teton Lodge Company’s contract with its namesake park is sunsetting next year, and the National Park Service is taking the opportunity to sort out what it wants to ask of the succeeding concessioner.
The lodge company, owned by Vail Resorts, operates many of the visitor services — from boat rentals to lodging — in Grand Teton National Park, spanning Colter Bay Village, Jackson Lake Lodge, Jenny Lake Lodge and beyond.
The company’s contract with Grand Teton expires Dec. 31, 2021, and the park has started a process that will assess the impacts of infrastructure improvements and additions that will be required of the new concessioner.
“It makes sense to have these conversations now, especially so the potential contractors know what the National Park Service and visitors are interested in,” acting Teton park Chief of Staff Jeremy Barnum told the Jackson Hole Daily.
The park intends to prepare an environmental assessment, concurrent with developing a business prospectus that will be released early next year.
Ahead of those steps, the park is “scoping” its plans, and public comments are now being accepted. A similar, less-specific scoping process for the same concession contract, which is by far the park’s largest, passed by in 2018.
This time, a four-page scoping newsletter that the park released (attached to this story at JHNewsAndGuide.com) outlines specific proposed projects that new concessioner would be required to take on.
Among the tentative requirements is that Jackson Lake Lodge and other concessioner-operated buildings around the park would have to be brought into compliance with modern fire safety codes.
One existing Jackson Lake Lodge room would also be converted to a full-service kitchen, the scoping newsletter says.
Another widespread proposed project is building new employee housing: for six to 12 employees and their dependents at Jackson Lake Lodge, 10 to 12 employees at Jenny Lake Lodge and six to 12 employees at Colter Bay.
The list goes on. Whichever business is selected for the big contract would be tasked with adding 57 new 50-amp electric hookups at Colter Bay, improving handicap accessibility and amenities at Colter Bay and building a new composting toilet at Elk Island.
A Colter Bay warehouse and recycling center would also be rebuilt new at a nearby location.
Former Grand Teton National Park employee Joan Anzelmo, who helped oversee the park’s concession program, said she was pleased to see the park sorting out its National Environmental Policy Act obligations ahead of issuing the business prospectus. The projects that were outlined, she said, are “clearly” needed.
“I’m particularly happy that they are authorizing more employee housing and [a] new concession warehouse at Colter Bay Village,” Anzelmo said. “Whoever is awarded that contract should have the ability to construct more employee housing for their workforce, which is great.”
Anzelmo’s sense is that Grand Teton Lodge Company is definitely not a lock to retain the contract.
“When Congress updated the concession laws, it made it much more competitive,” Anzelmo said. “Many concession companies that had large contracts, a lot of those changed hands.
“It’s very clear that there is no guarantee on who the next concession company will be.”
The public will have a second opportunity to comment when the environmental assessment is published, expected this spring.
In the meantime, scoping comments are due by March 5. There’s a portal to submit them online at ParkPlanning.NPS.gov/grte-001.