National Park Service Raises Prospect Of Reopening Businesses Along Blue Ridge Parkway

The National Park Service is curious if there are any businesses or organizations that would like to bring the Bluffs Lodge and other properties along the Blue Ridge Parkway back to life/David and Kay Scott file

Long-shuttered businesses along the Blue Ridge Parkway, including the Bluffs Lodge, could reopen if the National Park Service receives any interest from businesses willing to take on the challenge.

The Park Service this week reached out with a Request for Expressions of Interest [RFEI] for operators potentially willing to take on the 24-room lodge, Rocky Knob Cabins with its seven guest cabins, or the Otter Creek Restaurant and Gift Shop. For now the Park Service is just interested in seeing if anyone is interested in taking over the businesses. It is seeking business concepts “regarding the future use of these facilities, considering the park’s purpose. This RFEI is issued solely for information and planning purposes and does not constitute a Request for Proposal (RFP) or a promise to issue an RFP in the future.”

The locations offered in this RFEI are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places,” the agency added. “All have been unoccupied for some time and will require maintenance and repair to varying degrees.”

Bluffs Lodge has been closed since 2010 when the former concessionaire walked away at the end of its contract. Since then, the facility has been overrun with mold and decay. The lodge had opened in 1949 with two two-story wooden buildings offering 24 guest rooms; it remained unchanged until the day it closed, noted park lodging experts David and Kay Scott.

“The seven cabins at Rocky Knob were built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps,” the Scotts said. “Each cabin included a kitchen, but only one handicap accessible unit had a private bathroom. The rent was cheap and guests could take a short drive to Mabry Mill for morning biscuits topped with honey. The few rental units made it impossible for a concessionaire to make the facility profitable even when Mabry Mill was thrown in. The cabins closed within a year of the Bluffs closure.”

The Park Service tried to revive the two properties in 2012 when it floated a concessions package that including lodging, retail, and food and beverage visitor services for Peaks of Otter Lodge, Bluffs Lodge, and Rocky Knob Cabins under a single prospectus. In the end, no interest surfaced. The agency tried again in 2019 to find operators for both Rocky Knob and Otter Creek Restaurant, but was unsuccessful.

The Park Service will host Virtual Question & Answer (Q&A) sessions on the following dates to allow interested parties to ask questions of park staff about any one of the properties included in the latest RFEI.

  • Session One, focused on Otter Creek, is February 27, at 2 p.m. ET.
  • Session Two, focused on Rocky Knob Cabins, is February 28, at 2 p.m. ET
  • Session Three, focused on Bluffs Lodge, is February 29, at 2 p.m. ET

To receive a link to join one or more Q&A virtual session, email Rachel Stasny at e-mail us. In-person site visits will be scheduled at each facility by late March.

The National Park Service will evaluate responses to the RFEI to inform the next stage in planning for these business opportunities. Interested commercial entities can e-mail us to request a full copy of the RFEI, including submission criteria. The RFEI is also available on the “Doing Business With Us” page of the Parkway’s website. Responses to the RFEI are due by April 30, 2024.   

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