2012-02-24 / Community

NPS Facilitates A Changing Of The Guard

By Nicholas Briano

A changing of the guard will take place in Breezy Point beach clubs on April 1, as the National Park Service announced this week that, for the first time in 40 years, they have decided to award the popular summer hangouts to a new operator.

Through a competitive open bidding process, a first of its kind for the beach clubs, the company Ortega National Parks, LLC, a New Mexico-based company that operates hospitality properties on other NPS lands, was awarded a ten-year concession to run the beach clubs. This has left many of the clubs’ visitors to wonder about the future of the facilities that have grown to be a summer tradition, not only for Rockaway residents, but for people in the outer boroughs as well.

The announcement was made by National Park Service Northeast Regional Director Dennis Reidenbach, in which he named Ortega as the new concessionaire of the Silver Gull Beach and Breezy Point Beach Clubs.

Gateway officials say many of the details regarding the clubs’ future are still to be determined by the operator, but remain confident that continuity will be achieved in a seamless transition between concessionaires.

At a minimum, the new concessionaire will provide the same level of services for the 2012 season and NPS officials say there has been no request for fee increases to this date.

“For millions of visitors, these beach clubs offer a leisurely way to enjoy the beach just a few miles from home,” Gateway Superintendent Linda Canzanelli said in the announcement. “Returning visitors will notice some new enhancements in the services offered, which may attract new users as well.”

Ortega National Parks, LLC, has been in the hospitality business for more than 45 years and has more than 15 years experience managing a total of six NPS concessions in places such as New Mexico and California. Some of their concessions include a boathouse, dune fields, Native American preserves, gift shops, hotels and RV parks.

The beach clubs in Breezy Point have traditionally offered private cabanas, food service, recreation, and both pool and ocean swimming. Visitors apply for entrance to the clubs via seasonal and day-use passes. The clubs, which were formed before Gateway was created by Congress in 1972, are now run as concessions under the authority of the National Park Service.

More information about Gateway’s beach clubs can be found at http://www.nps.gov/gate/parkmgmt/beach-clubinformation. htm. A phone number is expected to be posted at the site next week to make reservations for the 2012 season. Neither the previous operator nor the newly awarded Ortega Na-tional Parks, LLC could be reached for comment.

Both clubs were operated under a special use permit until a 2007 report by the Department of the Interior’s Office of the Inspector said they were awarded the permits under “inappropriate circumstances,” because the permits allowed the clubs to have exclusive use of federal parklands without making the guarantees of access and accountability required under federal rules.

As a result, the park placed the clubs under a temporary three-year non-competitive concession contract which expired at the end of last season. That temporary contract mandated the club offer day passes in an effort to reduce the exclusiveness created by the membership only option. The goal of NPS was to make the clubs more accessible to the public, by opening up an array of options for club-goers.

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