Month: August 2018

New Business: Camping Cabins for Public Parks, At No Cost

For most of our company’s 30 year life, our primary business has been the turnkey operation (and sometimes refurbishment) of public parks and campgrounds.  Today we operate over 150 recreation areas under this model, managing most all the operations and paying all the expenses in exchange for a revenue share payment to the recreation agency.

As with all great new business ideas, we basically were dragged into this new cabin business by our customers.  The first to do so was California State Parks, whose director told me that they didn’t want or need someone to operate the entire campground at McArthur-Burney Falls SP, but they could potentially use some help refurbishing a dated and unpopular camping loop of 24 sites.

You can find the entire case study here, but in short we eventually agreed to convert this primitive camping loop into a cabin loop.  We installed 24 cabins (plus a campsite for our live-on-site host) for about $550,000.  The cabins became property of CSP and we also pay CSP a revenue share, which was over $71,000 in 2017.  The state got a valuable amenity for visitors and a large new revenue stream for no cost, no risk, and no extra operational hassle.

Unfortunately, I can be a bit slow at times and so it took a second customer, Alabama State Parks (case study here) asking for the same thing to convince use that there was a real need among cash-strapped public agencies to get private help to provide new amenities to visitors.  Our web site for this business is at park-cabins.com, and over the coming weeks I will describe more about how it works.

An Economics Professor Visits the National Parks

This is a blob post from an economics professor at the University of Rochester, who spent the summer with some students in Kentucky and comments on visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

Any of you who read about parks and recreation have heard the noise that our National Parks are “woefully” underfunded, that there are decades of deferred maintenance backlogs, that they are threatened by overuse and so on. And nominally, all of that is true. But consider that the Great Smoky National Park is THE MOST visited park in the entire national park system … and it’s not even close. It gets almost triple the amount of visits as the Grand Canyon! From talking to a ranger, he thinks they get over 11 million visitors per year at the park.

And they charge each of these visitors … zero. Mind you, most visitors who come there are spending an inordinate amount of money to get to the park and to stay and eat and recreate near the park. If you’ve ever been to Gatlingburg and Pigeon Forge, you know what I mean (I’ll leave that rant for some other time). Needless to say, if a family of four is staying at a decent place near the main entrance to the park (there are other less busy entrances, I was over by Wear Cove) and they eat out once per day and they avail themselves of some of the absurd Vegas-like places, they are dropping an easy $2,000 just to be there. Yet, to “ensure access to all” the park remains free. I spend some of the most glorious recreational days of my life in the park this past week and paid zero dollars for it. Compared to everything else I was doing, it was worth well north of $500 to me.

Bringing Private Capital to Refurbishment and Expansion of Public Parks: A Success Story

A while back I made a presentation at the RecX conference, held at the Department of Interior in Washington, DC.  The RecX conference is a venue for exchanging new ideas on the frontiers of public recreation.

In this brief, 13-minute presentation, I discuss our experience re-opening, refurbishing, and expanding two large TVA campgrounds.  In these examples we invested over a million dollars of private capital in exchange for a revenue-sharing operating agreement for the park.  Here is the story (You have to watch just to find out why this case study video uses the image below:)

ParkPPP Blog is Rebooting!

Over the past year we have been pretty deeply immersed in some new business launches.  Over the coming weeks, I will spend some time outlining the opportunities we saw and how we believe these new offerings will support public recreation agencies.

In addition to a lot of new content and news, expect a new look at this site soon.  We have already revamped our recreation partnership services website and have a lot more exciting changes in the works.

By the way, if you will be at the NRPA conference in September 2018 in Indianapolis, come by booth 2512 and say hi.