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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, concessionaire services are 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 2014-15, the Department held 201 concession contracts.  In addition, the Department held 57 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 evaluating visitor needs, determining compatibility with the park’s mission, and, in some cases, after review by the State Parks and Recreation Commission to determine the concession's compatibility with the park unit's classification and general plan. Currently, any concession with revenue projections or capital investments greater than $1,000,000 require review by the Commission and notification to the Legislature.

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 2014-15, concession sales at state parks exceeded $140 million and resulted in over $20 million in compensation to the Department in rent and/or facility improvements.

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, parking lot management, lodging, and marina operations.

What rules or regulations govern concessions?
Public Resources Code Sections 5080.03 et. seq. govern concession contracts. These sections include guidelines for the RFP public bidding process, contract negotiations, and the responsibilities of the State Park and Recreation Commission and Legislature. The California State Parks and Recreation Commission sets policy for the Concessions Program.

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 are advertised in State, regional and trade newspapers, on the State’s RFP advertising portal, and on the Department’s website. To be added to the mailing list, send us your contact informationor 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 park unit's classification and general plan.  

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 (Public Resources Code Sections 5019.10, et. seq.). In 1982, the Concession Law was amended (Public Resources Code Sections 5080.03 et. seq.) to include legislative oversight. Review Public Resources Code Sections 5080.02 – 5080.29 for the current concession laws.

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. 

How is the State Parks and Recreation Commission and Legislature involved in the Concessions Program?
RFPs for concessions with anticipated gross receipts and/or capital improvements exceeding $1,000,000 must be presented to the State Park and Recreation Commission for them to determine whether the concession is compatible with the park unit classification and general plan.  In addition, the Legislature must be provided with 30-days advance notice of the Department’s intent to advertise the RFP.