National Park Service Seeks To End Concessions Contract At Crater Lake National Park

The National Park Service says it will move to terminate the concessions contract at Crater Lake National Park/Rebecca Latson file

The National Park Service plans to cancel the concessions contract held by an Aramark subsididary at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon unless the company can demonstrate why it should be retained.

At issue is whether Crater Lake Hospitality, LLC, failed to maintain facilities at Crater Lake and Oregon Caves National Monument as contractually required, and whether employee and visitor safety has been jeopardized by the company’s operations.

“Termination would be an extremely rare action, and one we don’t take lightly,” said Pacific West Regional Director David Szymanski in a statement. “But consistent failures to meet contract requirements led to our notice of intent to terminate this contract to protect visitors and park resources. If NPS terminates the contract, NPS would organize an orderly discontinuation of Crater Lake Hospitality’s operations at the park and work to transition to a short-term contract with another operator to minimize impacts to visitors.”

Traveler requests to discuss the matter with Szymanski and Crater Lake Superintendent Craig Ackerman have not been answered.

From its corporate headquarters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Aramark officials on Friday said “[T]he challenges at Crater Lake National Park are not indicative of our overall business operations, and we continue to take steps to improve the conditions.”

The did not elaborate on what steps were being taken.

Back in December the situation at Crater Lake was raised by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, who told Park Service Director Chuck Sams in a letter that the “annual concessionaire assessments paint a troubling picture of the concessionaire’s fulfillment of its important responsibilities at Crater Lake National Park over several years. The National Park Service records make it clear that the concessionaire has continually failed to fulfill the requirements of the contract.”

Wyden told Sams that he sent staff to Crater Lake to assess conditions there and that the “issues that staff observed during this visit have only served to solidify my understanding of the seriousness of the concessionaire’s failure to plan for and perform important regular maintenance, adequately train staff and address issues that directly threaten safety.”

The senator added that the “issues included staff rooms without working heaters, siding falling off the building, and a notable lack of security measures to protect employee safety. The latter of these is especially troubling given reports that serious assaults and other criminal activity has occurred in the dorms and no acceptable security measures have been implemented to increase security and privacy in dorms, bathrooms and showers. These substandard living conditions continue to threaten the safety of the workers and the reputation of the park, and must be addressed by the concessionaire immediately to ensure the health and wellbeing of the staff.”

The contract covers operations at Crater Lake Lodge (above), as well as at nearby Oregon Caves National Monument/Kurt Repanshek file

Wyden said there also had been at least three diesel spills at concessionaire-managed facilities last year and that Crater Lake Hospitality failed to properly respond to them. The senator also noted that:

  • the concessionaire has failed to properly maintain fire alarm systems, and has manually silenced fire alarms without notifying the park fire department;
  • its restaurant at Crater Lake Lodge had a “disturbing record of repeated unsatisfactory public health inspections”;
  • the concessionaire has failed to provide documentation to the National Park Service that the kitchen staff have received the required food safety certifications.
  • the concessionaire has failed to fully address deferred maintenance and facility improvement projects as required by its contract.

Aramark, which landed the contracts for Crater Lake National Park and Oregon Caves National Monument in 2018, in 2023 saw record revenues of approximately $18.85 billion, roughly $2.5 billion above 2022 levels, according to Statista, a global data and business intelligence firm. Statista added that “a large stake” of Aramark’s revenues came from facility management.

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