Commercial Services Planning

The determination of what is necessary and appropriate is accomplished through the National Park Service planning process. Concession contracts are issued under regulations unique to the National Park Service Commercial Services Program. They are issued by parks to qualified businesses to provide a variety of visitor services ranging from dining, lodging, shopping, backcountry guide services, horseback rides, white water rafting, and a variety of other services.

The National Park Service uses a goal-driven planning process. Boundaries are set for each project comprised of the laws, regulations, and policies that direct the NPS and established the specific park; the purpose of the park; and the protection of the significant resources for which the park was established.

Commercial services planning begins at the general management planning level where the activities, services, and facilities that are necessary and appropriate to achieve the desired resource protection and visitor experience conditions are established. A commercial services plan is an implementation plan prepared for each applicable park. It describes in detail which types and levels of activities, services, and facilities will be provided and how they can be managed by the NPS in the most effective and efficient manner.

Commercial services are defined as any activity or service that occurs in a park for which compensation is made. By law, all commercial services must be authorized in writing by the park superintendent. The National Park Service has several tools provided by Congress to authorize commercial activities. Some activities and services begin and end inside the park and require the utilization of park resources to be provided such as food, lodging, supplies, and some guided activities; they are generally authorized by a concessions contract. Some activities begin and end outside the park but utilize the park in the course of doing business such as guiding and instructional services; they are generally authorized by a commercial use authorization.

Commercial services planning provides a logical decision making process with public involvement to determine which types of activities and services will be provided and at what levels and the best way to use the tools available to manage those activities and services.