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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