National Park Service to close Kettle Falls Marina

By: 
KATIE DUNN
S-E Staff Reporter

The National Park Service (NPS) announced on Feb. 6 that the Kettle Falls Marina will close April 30.

This was shocking news to Edward and Carol Wimberly, who have owned and operated Lake Roosevelt Vacations, Inc. for over 29 years as concessioners of the marina.

Last year the NPS solicited for a new 10-year contract, indicating that services at the marina were necessary and appropriate. The new contract called for improvements in safety, and a way to “increase the variety of services offered to visitors.”

The bid solicitation followed the process required by the 1998 NPS Concessions Management Improvement Act. Bids were accepted from May 4 through Aug. 30, 2016.

According to the NPS, the effort to select a contractor to continue operations was cancelled to give park officials more time to evaluate visitor services in the northern portion of Lake Roosevelt.

“We had every hope we would have a viable bidder through the solicitation process that was offered at the beginning of May last year,” explained Denise Bausch, NPS chief of Division of Interpretation and Education. “There wasn't a need for an evaluation at that time, however, when we received no viable bids we had to take a step back and see what our other options were.”

NPS contractor proposals are protected under federal law. Because the process was cancelled and no decision was made, the NPS will not release any information of the offers received from the solicitation, including how many bids there were and who they were from.

This privacy is to protect the interest and integrity of the government's solicitation process, according to Bausch.

The contract expiration at the end of April will close the boat slip rentals, houseboat rentals, fuel sales and the store at the Kettle Falls Marina.

According to the NPS, slip boat and houseboat rentals will still be available at Seven Bays, Keller Ferry and Spokane Tribe's Two Rivers Marina on the northern portion of Lake Roosevelt.

NPS left it to Lake Roosevelt Vacations, Inc. to handle any of the reservations made after April 30.

“The National Park Service will take a fresh look at public needs and wants with regard to services for the area,” said Superintendent Dan Foster.

“We will evaluate the potential to attract future concessions and whether services offered in neighboring communities already satisfy the demands of our visitors. We regret the impact this will have on our visitors.”

Edward Wimberly said he submitted a bid proposal, but never heard back from the NPS on whether or not it was accepted.

“This decision was totally unexpected and left me stunned,” said Wimberly. “They did not say a word about our bid being denied.”

The Wimberly family only found out the results of the solicitation through the NPS press release that announced the marina's closure.

Demand

According to NPS market analysis, there was a “positive macroeconomic outlook for the next concession contract.” The analysis showed data that indicated population growth, tourism and strong visitation to the Park.

In addition, the surrounding region displayed “strong consistency” throughout the previous concession contract with the Wimberly family.

This consistency prevailed through the 2008-2010 nationwide economic downturn, according to date from the analysis. The NPS stated the data for the marina indicated “strong historical visitation,” which suggested the possibility of a “good business opportunity for the concessioner-run operation in the future.”

Lake Roosevelt Vacations. Inc. caters to approximately 60 local boats, has 11 houseboats and four to five other boats for rent.

According to Wimberly, he already had over $100,000 in deposits for houseboat rentals for the upcoming season.

“Given this fact, I am perplexed as to why the National Park Service has now suddenly decided it needs to spend time and money to assess whether there is a demand for these recreational services,” noted Wimberly.

Wimberly said he was still fully prepared and willing to continue providing the recreational services, which are required and authorized under the prospectus the agency issued last May.

Kevin Garden, the Wimberly's attorney, noted that the NPS' current Management Policies from 2006 state that a management plan sets out direction for the park after considering the input of the public.

The NPS' management policies state that amendments or revisions to a general management plan “will be accompanied by a supplemental environmental impact statement or other suitable NEPA analysis and public involvement.”

Public input

The Wimberly family and their attorney are writing letters to Laura Joss, the NPS Regional Director for the Pacific West Region.

Anyone who has ever had a positive experience with Lake Roosevelt Vacations, Inc. is encouraged by the Wimberly's to also send a letter to Joss.

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, U.S. Representative for Washington's 5th congressional district, wrote a letter to Joss explaining her “deep concerns” about the NPS' decision to close the longstanding recreation services at the Kettle Falls Marina.

McMorris Rodgers said the NPS made “a really bad decision.”

“This is a very important marina,” said McMorris Rodgers. “Many individual families have reserved houseboats and boat lifts in anticipation of the summer season, which is the highlight of activity on Lake Roosevelt.”

Not only will this decision impact people's jobs and the lifestyle of the people living in the area, but McMorris Rodgers noted that this decision will also impact the local economy.

According to Wimberly, each summer season brings in approximately 3,000 people, many of whom are visiting from out of area. During the summer, Lake Roosevelt Vacations, Inc. hires an average of 25 employees to help with all of the visitors.

“This decision will not only cause serious harm to the local Kettle Falls economy and community, but it will have a detrimental, long-term impact on visitors who have enjoyed vacationing at the Kettle Falls Marina for years,” said McMorris Rodgers.

McMorris Rodgers noted that it was only six months after the NPS closed solicitations for contract proposals that the decision was made to close the marina.

As part of her letter, McMorris Rodgers requested that several questions be answered before March 7.

Questions included how many bids the NPS received to operate in the Kettle Falls Marina, why no contractor was selected, what studies the NPS plans to develop to determine the marina's future, the timeline for these studies and why the current contract with Lake Roosevelt Vacations, Inc. will expire when none of the studies have been completed.

“I'm hopeful the National Park Service will give us more time so we can gear up to get a better decision,” McMorris Rodgers said. “They have stated they want to do studies on how useful the marina is, but it makes sense to me that they would do those studies before they decide to close the marina.”

To contact Laura Joss:

Laura Joss
Regional Director Pacific West Region
San Francisco, CA 94104-2828
Laura_Joss@nps.gov

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