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Questions and Answers about Concessions

What are concessions?
Concessions are private businesses operating under contract in state parks to provide products and services designed to enhance or facilitate the park visitor’s experience, typically not provided by State employees.

What type of concessions does State Parks have?
Concessions range from small-scale, seasonal services, such as mobile food carts, to large-scale, year-round operations, such as marinas and lodging. Concessions include full-service restaurants, snack bars, mobile food services, retail sales, camp stores, lodges, golf courses, marinas, aquatic services, equestrian tours, theaters, and educational programs and demonstrations.

How many concessions exist in the state park system?
In fiscal year 2012-13, the Department held 219 concession contracts.  In addition, the Department held 64 operating agreements with local government agencies and non-profit organizations for the operation of partial or full state park units.  Local operating agencies may also enter into concession contracts with the Department's approval.

How are concessions established?
Concessions are established by the Department after study and evaluation of visitor needs, compatibility with the park’s mission, and, in some cases, after review and approval by the State Park and Recreation Commission and the Legislature.  Currently, any concession with revenue projections or capital investments greater than $500,000 require prior Commission and Legislative approval.

How are concessions proposed?
Concessions can be proposed by: 1) a park’s general plan process; 2) a district superintendent who sees a need for a concession; 3) a member of the public; 4) an entrepreneur or a corporation; 5) a legislative mandate; or 6) a local agency under an operating agreement with the Department.

How are concession rents determined?
The Department periodically conducts economic feasibility studies to establish minimum acceptable rents. Most concession opportunities are offered through a public Request for Proposals (RFP) or bid process, which establishes fair market rent for the specific concession opportunity. State park concession rent is paid by a flat rate or a percentage of the concession’s gross sales, whichever sum is greater.

How much revenue is generated by concessions?
In fiscal year 2012-13, concession sales at state parks exceeded $115 million and resulted in over $18 million in rent paid to the Department.

Where do concession rents go?
Rents from concessions are deposited into the State Parks and Recreation Fund (SPRF) or the Off-Highway Vehicle Fund (OHVF). The money deposited into these accounts is used to support the Department's respective programs.

How many state park concession opportunities are offered to the public each year?
The figure varies but there are approximately 10 new or replacement concession contracts offered to the public annually.

Which concession types pay the most rent to the State?
Rental payments from restaurant operations make up the bulk of the revenue the State receives from concessionaires.  Other concessions that contribute significantly include retail sales, lodging facilites, and marina operations.

What rules or regulations govern concessions?
Public Resources Code Section 5080.03 et. seq. governs concession contracts. This section includes guidelines for the RFP of public bid process, contract negotiations, and the legislative review process. The California Park and Recreation Commission sets policy for concession contracts.

How are concessionaires selected?
Concessionaires are normally selected through a RFP or public bid process, but contracts may be negotiated under certain circumstances. When a concession is offered for RFP or public bid, the Department evaluates proposals based on criteria established for the project. A concession contract award board appointed by the Director evaluates each proposal and prepares a "best responsible proposer/bidder" recommendation for the Director.

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 up to 30 years for marina operations and 50 years for lodging as provided for in statute.  Any other contract terms over 20 years require special legislation.

How can a person find out about concession opportunities?
The Department maintains a mailing list of interested individuals who receive notices about concession opportunities as they occur. Concession opportunities also are advertised in State and regional newspapers, in the State’s contracts registry, in minority and trade newspapers, and on the Department’s website ( To be added to the mailing list, send us your contact information or call the Concessions Program Office at 916-653-7733.

What restrictions/limitations exist on the types and locations of concessions?
Concession capital improvements, programs, products, and services must be compatible with the classification and general plan of the affected park unit.

How many proposals/bids are generally received on a concession?
The number of proposals/bids received differs for each concession, but on average the Department receives from 2 to 4 proposals per project.

What is a seasonal concession?
Seasonal concessions operate only during certain months of the year. The location of a concession and the number of visitors at any given time determine whether a concession operates seasonally or year-round.

What percentage of concession contracts have interpretive and educational elements?
Approximately 20% of concession contracts have an interpretive focus.

How did concessions get started in state parks?
In 1959, a California Department of Finance study concluded it was appropriate in some state parks to have concessionaires build and operate facilities. In 1960, the Legislature adopted Concession Law (PRC 5019.10, et. seq.). In 1982, the Concession Law was amended (PRC 5080.03 et. seq.) to include legislative oversight.

In what type of state park units are concessions generally placed?
The decision to place a concession in a state park unit is guided by the classification and general plan for the park unit. Concessions generally are placed in State Recreation Areas; State Beaches; State Parks; and State Historic Parks when compatible with the unit’s mission.

Under what circumstances is the State Park and Recreation Commission and legislative approval required on concessions?
Commission and legislative approvals are required when capital improvements or estimated annual gross receipts exceed $500,000.

How do operating agreements differ from concession agreements?
An operating agreement is between the State and a government agency, i.e. city or county government. Consideration to the State is operation and maintenance of a portion or entire state park unit.