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‘Win-win’: State Re-works Park Contract to Help Long-time Vendor Stem Losses

Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation

The state has awarded a new contract to a Delta Junction-area business to continue operating an historical park after working out a new kind of arrangement to help the company earn revenue from concessions to pay the state for upkeep on the park when it opens in May.

Whitestone Farms Inc. has been operating Big Delta State Historical Park since it was established more than 25 years ago, but a downturn in Alaska’s tourism business over the past few years made Whitestone officials reluctant to go after the contract again when the state began soliciting bids last fall.

The faith-based business finished its 2011 tourism season about $40,000 in the red, and business was flat again last year. The tourism slump is probably the main reason the State Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation was able to attract only one offer in response to its request for proposals for the Big Delta park contract – and that one was from Whitestone.

So, Brooks Ludwig, the Parks division’s northern area superintendent, says he and Whitestone officials worked out a deal through which the agency would take over maintenance of the park’s facilities and grounds and the company would run the concessions.

“Whitestone Farms Incorporated will manage the gift shop and restaurant, and the rest of the park will go back under the state Parks management,” Ludwig said.

Whitestone Farms Treasurer David DiGloria says the arrangement should help the company cut overhead and costs enough to turn a profit

“There were enough changes that took place so that it would be a profitable enterprise for us again,” DiGloria said.

Ludwig says the deal calls for Whitestone to pay the Parks division 6 percent of the company’s gross earnings, or about $14,000, to cover costs the state will incur as its part of the deal.

“We take a percentage of Whitestone Farms’ gross from the restaurant and gift shop,” he said. “And that’ll actually pay for all the groundskeepers, it’ll pay for the volunteers, it’ll pay for a vehicle for the volunteers, it’ll pay for the utilities...”

Ludwig says be believes the arrangement is unique among the state’s historical parks, and is a “win-win” for both the state and Whitestone, because it ensures the scenic park on the Tanana River will remain open, along with its many attractions.