End of the line for Mabry Mill restaurant?

Mabry Mill restaurant closed for the season on Sunday and some wonder if the most popular attraction on the Blue Ridge Parkway will open again next Spring.

Forever Resorts, the Arizona company that has run Mabry Mill and other spots along Parkway, told the National Park Service that it has “no interest” in continuing its contract to operate the parkway properties.

Forever Resorts 10-year contract with the Park Service expired this year.

Employees at Mabry Mill were told they don’t have jobs at the facility next season and they might have to apply for a new operator, if one can be found.

The National Park Service posted this on its web site on October 12:

The National Park Service (NPS) is seeking expressions of interest for the use of several facilities (listed below) along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The sites, including Peaks of Otter Lodge and Bluffs Lodge, range from Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 60.8 to Milepost 339 and may be used individually or combined. These facilities may be available for a three year period, starting the spring of 2011. The NPS may issue Temporary Concessions Contracts or assign Sub-concessioners for some or all of the facilities. Temporary Concession Contracts and Sub-concession Agreements offer an excellent opportunity for entities to become familiar with NPS concession contracting. Temporary operators will have the opportunity to bid on a full term contract (10 years).

Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina, the Parkway is a 469-mile recreational motor road that connects Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks while protecting the cultural and natural features of the region. Visitors are drawn to this area to experience the stunning scenery and close-up looks at the natural and cultural history of the mountains.

The following facilities are included:

MP 60.8 Otter Creek Restaurant & Gift Shop, 57 seat restaurant and gift shop. MP 85.6 Peaks of Otter Lodge 63 room hotel, 150 seat restaurant and gift shop. MP 85.6 Peaks of Otter Country Store Small gift country store near Peaks of Otter Lodge. MP 174.1 Rocky Knob Cabins 7 housekeeping cabins, employee housing. MP 176.2 Mabry Mill Restaurant & Gift Shop 58 seat restaurant and gift shop. MP 241.1 Doughton Park Bluffs Lodge, 24 room hotel. MP 241.1 Doughton Park Bluffs Coffee Shop, 56 seat restaurant and gift shop. MP 241.1 Doughton Park Bluffs Gift Shop. MP 297.1 Julian Price Lake Boat Rentals, Canoe rental, sale of snacks and firewood. MP 339.5 Crabtree Falls Gift Shop, Gift Shop and convenience shop, formerly a restaurant.

NPS set Monday (Nov. 8) as a deadline for applications.

At the same time, the Park Service is “evaluating” attractions like Mabry Mill, Peaks of Otter Lodge and Doughton Park to see if it is “economically viable” to keep the spots open.

It seems inevitable that some of the Parkway’s campgrounds will be closed for good. Most are outdated and lack facilities for large campers and RVs and declining traffic on the parkway has left many campgrounds with empty spaces.

“We have to decide what the break-even point is,” says Gary Johnson, chief planner and landscape architect for the Parkway.

Concessionaires complain that the Park Service wants too big of a bit out of their revenues and running operations like Mabry Mill leave them in the hole because of the rules.

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4 thoughts on “End of the line for Mabry Mill restaurant?”

  1. Please these are national historic treasures they should all be maintained.Perhaps the parks service should consider local running of the facilities on a individual bases. We moved to the Mabry Mill area just 3 years ago and often enjoy stopping in. We love to go there for breakfast. We lived in Charlotte for 40 years unaware of all this region of the parkway had to offer. It needs some proper marketing.

  2. I am a big supporter of the NPS. That said, I have long questioned the prices charged by concessionaires. I have no way of determining whether it is the “bite” taken by the NPS or “greed” on the part of the concessionaires. …but the end result is that prices have gone totally out of this world. I am not talking just about the Mabry Mill area or the other BRP areas, but rather the entire NPS system. Go to any park and look at the enormous prices charged by concessionaires which are way out of line for the goods received. Lodging – many times well over a $100 a night and not uncommon for some to go over $200 a night. Camping is the only reasonable deal, but I for one would be willing to pay more for full hook-ups. …and full hook-ups could be provided for a fraction of the costs of surrounding commercial sites and still be very profitable if we keep the concessionaires out of the mix whether it is their “greed” or the NPS “bite.” Many of the NPS lodging offerings are substandard compared to surrounding offerings at a much lower rate. This is just inherently wrong. It doesn’t apply to the BRP, but a recent example of concessionaires gouging is Death Valley NP where the park station charges over $5.00 a gallon for gas and local stations not too far away in Beatty, NV only charge in the $3.00 range. This info is from another photographer who was just in DVNP last weekend. I confirmed with a web search of prices in DVNP and in Beatty, NV which is within a reasonable distance (about an 80 mile round trip) but well worth the $70-75 plus savings per tank for my truck (and not even a round trip if you tie in a stop at the ghost town of Rhyolite). Regardless of who is at fault (greed vs. bite), all they are missing is the mask and gun to be able to tell them from a common robber. In a nutshell, I think that the NPS does an admirable job managing our parks for the most part. However, the management of the concessionaires are not one of their crowning glories. The “greed”/”bite” of the concessionaires and junk in the gateway towns to most national parks are the scourge of the NPS. Regretfully, there is little that can be done about the gateway “rip-offs,” but the NPS should get a handle on the pricing problem within park boundaries – whether it is the NPS “bite” or the concessionaires “greed.” Either/both is/are pricing parks out of the family vacation pocketbook. Just my humble opinion for what it is worth. Dixie

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