How to be a State Park Concessionaire
The 1927 legislative session offered a challenge for the Parks Board to negotiate legislation that further established and developed the state park system. The national state park movement, growing travel after World War I and the economic viability of tourist attractions placed the Texas Legislature in a more receptive mindset to accept donated parklands. Colp, Parks Board Chairman, understood that external factors like paid visitation and ancillary sales presented a way to fund and advance a state park system. He worked diligently to get legislators to accept his vision. He devised a plan and introduced a concept that parks could survive through their own operational profits. Furthermore, he believed that parks could be operated under state contracts as leased concessions and be profitable. By securing private individuals and communities to operate parks, the state park cause was advanced. His concept was given a green light, provided these added parks would not require state funding. On another front, regional special interest groups continued to push for large parks in the Davis Mountains, Palo Duro Canyon, Frio Canyon, Caddo Lake and in Burnet County. Although the large park concept was at odds with the Neff/Colp smaller autokamp plan, Legislative attention was directed to the regional economic impacts these parks could produce.
By the 1931 legislative session, while in the midst of the depression, Colp, with some individual legislative support, secured legislation that enabled the Parks Board to accept donated parklands provided they were operated as leased concessions. This action paved the way for parks to be added as state leases operated under contract with an understanding that parks would pay their own way. This charted a clear course for parks like Palo Duro Canyon and Longhorn Caverns to enter the state parks system. This plan's success came in added parklands and funds to both develop and operate these sites. In addition it provided an opportunity to staff these locations with more than one caretaker. Superintendents and added support staff could be paid by additional revenues generated through the collection of use fees, souvenir sales, and user paid gratuities without adding to the state payroll costs.
Business Opportunities at State Parks
The Concession Program at Texas State Parks provides a very important part of the public's park experience. Concessionaires offer the facilities, services and products that Texas Parks and Wildlife Department could not otherwise provide. Types of concessions range from food service operations, park stores, golf courses, marinas, recreational equipment rentals, equestrian facilities, merchandise vending machine services, shuttle services, guide service provider activities, interpretive tours, resort development, and the operation of two state park units.
Q & A:
How to become a Texas State Park Concessionaire?
The Department partners with a variety of businesses and non-profits through concession contracts to offer the public necessary and appropriate services that contribute to high quality experiences for park visitors. How these opportunities are made available to the public is regulated by the Texas Administrative Code Title 31, Part 2 Chapter 59 Subchapter E.
When it is determined by the executive director that the leasing of a park concession is necessary, desirable, and financially feasible for furnishing visitor services and accommodations in a park area, or when it is necessary to secure a new concessionaire for a leased concession, a prospectus announcing the availability of such concession shall be issued to all interested persons, detailing essential information about the concession, and the procedure to follow in submitting a proposal. The executive director or his designee shall fully publicize the availability of a concession in the immediate area of the park and on a state or national level when circumstances warrant a broader coverage.
If you are interested in becoming a Texas Parks and Wildlife Concessionaire, there are two opportunities you can explore:
- Submit a proposal for an existing park concession: Concession opportunities generally are made available to the public through a request for proposal process. To receive notices about available Concession opportunities that interest you most, join our mailing list.
- Develop your own idea for a concession: New concession opportunities can be developed at a park unit when the concession will provide visitor services and accommodations that are necessary and appropriate for public use and enjoyment of the state park area, and that are consistent to the highest practical degree with the preservation and conservation of the area. If you have an idea for a concession at a state park, contact the park directly and ask to speak with the Park Superintendent. This person will assist you in understanding the goals and objectives of the park and determine if your concession proposal is compatible.
What are Leased Concessions?
Leased concessions are private business operating under contract in state parks to provide products and services that enhance the visitor's enjoyment of the state park and are consistent to the highest practical degree with the preservation and conservation of the area.
What type of Concessions does State Parks have?
Concessions range from small scale, seasonal services, such as mobile food service; to large- scale, year round operations, such as marinas and golf courses. Concessions include facilities for accommodating overnight visitors, gift shops, park stores, golf courses, marinas, equestrian facilities, food services, recreational equipment rentals, interpretive cave tours, guide service provider services, merchandise vending machines and transportation/shuttle services. Concessions may be operated as leased, state operated or non-profit park support group concessions.
What types of Concession Contracts are issued?
A revocable short-term contract shall be used to grant minor concession privileges when the scope and size of the concession opportunity warrants it. Examples include merchandise vending machines, miscellaneous coin operated machines, recreational rental equipment, and other miscellaneous services or accommodations the public has a right to expect and the executive director deems appropriate. A prospectus announcing the availability of this concession may not be issued.
A revocable temporary contract may be used when it is deemed necessary that immediate action be taken to continue services, provide interim services, or under circumstances when a test period is required to determine the feasibility for adding a new Concessionaire provided service in a park.
A standard form long-term contract shall be used to grant major concessions rights and privileges when the Concessionaire is required to make sizable investments in merchandise inventories, furnishing or equipment, and maintenance or repair of state owned buildings and structures.
How are Concessions established?
Concessions are established in state parks when it is determined by the executive director that the leasing of a park concession is necessary, desirable and financially feasible for furnishing visitor services and accommodation in a park area, or when it is necessary to secure a new concessionaire for a leased concession, a prospectus announcing the availability of such concession shall be issued to all interested persons, detailing essential information about the concession, and the procedure to follow in submitting a proposal. Concession opportunities are advertised in the immediate area of the park and on a state level when circumstances warrant a broader coverage.
How is a Concessionaire selected?
A Concessionaire will be selected with great care to insure that he has ability to operate the concession in an entirely satisfactory manner. In addition to ample financing and the ability to conduct the concession in an economical manner, the Concessionaire should conduct his operation in accordance with the ideals and objectives of the department by adhering to business practices that emphasize public service in addition to a profit motive, and are consistent to the highest practical degree with the preservation and conservation of the area. The department may disregard any or all proposals submitted, or make any counter proposal it may consider reasonable or desirable in accordance with commission policy. Program staff will conduct a comprehensive review of all information contained within the submitted proposal. Following review, the agency will conduct personal interviews of each submitter for the purpose of recommending a candidate as the prospective Concessionaire. The agency, at its discretion, may empanel a review board consisting of agency staff, and the local community, industry experts, or other individuals relevant or pertinent to the selection.
How are Concession franchise fees determined?
Franchise fees are determined by the executive director or his designee in an equitable and fair manner, giving consideration to the various types of operations, gross receipts, net profit, and capital invested. Single or multiple percentages applied to all or various kinds of gross receipts will be considered in new or amended contracts.
Where does revenue from Concession franchise fees go?
Franchise Fees collected from concessions are deposited in the State Treasury to the credit of the State Parks account and are used to fund all Texas State Parks.
How long are the terms for Concession Contracts?
Generally concession contract terms are five to ten years. However capital improvement requirements may warrant a longer term. Concession contract may be executed for a term of years commensurate with the size of the total investment required of the Concessionaire. The duration of a contract shall be set for a period of time to allow for a reasonable opportunity for return on investment. No renewal rights shall be made a part of any concession contract.
Revocable short-term contracts shall be issued for a term of two years or less.
Revocable temporary contract shall be issued for a term of 6 to 18 months.
How can a person find out about Concession opportunities?
The Department maintains a mailing list of interested individuals who receive notices about concession opportunities when they occur. Most concession opportunities are also advertised in the immediate area of the park and on a state or national level when circumstances warrant a broader coverage. Complete and return a, Prospective Concessionaire Mailing List Signup (PDF 247.3 KB), or call the State Parks Concession Manager at (512) 389-8565, to be added to the mailing list.