V.I. National Park Will Negotiate New Concession Contracts at Trunk and Cinnamon Bay Beaches

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Cinnamon Bay Campground and Trunk Bay’s gift shop and snack shack will be available to the highest bidder.

In the face of federal budget cuts which threaten continued across-the-board cutbacks in operations throughout the National Park Service, the Virgin Islands National Park is getting as serious about its commercial resources as it has always striven to be about its natural resources.

More than 20 years after the original contract for the park’s major commercial concessions at Trunk Bay and Cinnamon Bay on the north shore of St. John expired, the VINP will be putting the concessions up for bid this year “with a new contract by the summer of 2015,” according to VINP Superintendent Brion Fitzgerald.

“Cinnamon Bay concessions will go out to bid,” Supt. Fitzgerald announced at appearances before three island civic groups in mid-January. The concessions have been operated on one-year extensions since 1990 — at the 1990 rates, the superintendent said.

“The concessionaire has had zero incentive to make capital improvements,” Supt. Fitzgerald told the St. John Rotary Club on Wednesday, January 22. “That’s the park service’s fault.”

Now, the NPS hopes to have bidders selected by this summer and a new operator in place by the summer of 2015, according to the VINP superintendent.

“The bid documents will go out in May,” Supt. Fitzgerald told the St. John Rotary meeting.

“Significant Capital Improvements” Required
In addition to the potential for increased concession fees, the new contracts “will require significant capital improvements, ” Supt. Fitzgerald told meetings of three island civic groups, including the annual meeting of the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park on Sunday, January 19.

At Cinnamon Bay, the capital improvements will include “demolition of cottages and complete replacement in kind ,“ according to Supt. Fitzgerald. “On the same footprint, it cannot expand.”

In addition, the new concessionaire will be required “to replace the platform tents,” rebuilding the platforms and installing new tents “with breathable material,” the park superintendent said.

The Cinnamon Bay concession has 40 units in 10 concrete beachfront buildings between North Shore Road and Cinnamon Bay and the campground has almost 100 canvas platform-tents and bare sites, a beach shop, convenience store and an open-air restaurant is the largest of the two major VINP beach concessions.

The two concessions at Trunk Bay, the gift shop and the “snack shack,” will also be opened for bids in “free and open competition,” according to the superintendent, a veteran NPS administrator.

At Trunk Bay “think new concession buildings,” Supt. Fitzgerald told the Friends of the VINP annual meeting at T’ree Lizards Restaurant at Cinnamon Bay.

The Trunk Bay snack shack and gift shop operators “will have to put aside a percentage of their gross receipts,” Supt. Fitzgerald told Rotary members.

In a whirlwind of appearances before island civic groups, Supt. Fitzgerald reiterated his dour forecast for the financially strapped VINP to the St. John Audubon Society chapter on Tuesday, January 21, and the St. John Rotary Club on Wednesday, January 22.

Sequestered Federal Cuts Hurt
In the face of sequestered federal budget cuts which threaten continued across-the-board cutbacks in operations throughout the National Park Service and have cost the NPS seven operating positions in addition to a vacant Assistant Superintendent post, the new concession contracts could put the St. John park in a more beneficial financial arrangement from its two major concessions than it is under the current extended contracts.

The Cinnamon Bay Campground concession has continued remained in place since the first and only concession contract for the Cinnamon Bay property between the VINP and the Caneel Bay Resort expired in the early 1990s.

Supt. Fitzgerald said park officials hope to get the concessions prospectus “out by May… with new contracts by the summer of 2015.”