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Park Concessionaire Fees Criticized

From a Times Staff Writer

The largest 14 licensed businesses in the nation’s parks sold more than $255 million in goods and services in 1988 but paid only $5.6 million for the privilege, an Interior Department report found Tuesday.

“The taxpayers are getting a very bad deal. They’re getting gouged,” said James R. Richards, the department’s inspector general, in a phone interview.

The audit recommended increasing licensing fees for those who operate stands, tours and other services in national parks. Failing do so meant that the government lost $83 million in revenue from 1984 to 1988, the report found, and would cost the government another $109 million by 1993 if licensing fees are not raised dramatically.

The government’s central contention was that concessionaires are operating as monopolies inside park grounds, able to earn huge profits while paying low licensing fees to the National Park Service.

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The report, based on audits of 14 of the nation’s largest park concessionaires, indicates the operations are paying an average 2.5% of their gross receipts to the National Park Service. Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan Jr. has said that he hopes to increase fees beyond 20%.


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