Outdoor outsource: TVA set for switch

Published 8:37 am Monday, August 25, 2014

Local residents will get a chance Monday to hear details of a Tennessee Valley Authority proposal that could change the way visitors use a local recreation area – and also what amenities can be found there.
On Friday, the TVA announced a plan that would turn the day-to-day operation of six of its most popular camping facilities – including the Watauga Dam Campground between Watauga and Wilbur dams – over to private concessionaires.
The TVA said the proposal could lead to new features at the campgrounds.
The six campgrounds being examined are at five TVA dam reservations: Watauga, Pickwick, Melton Hill, Cherokee and both the headwater and tailwater camping areas at Douglas.
The TVA is seeking proposals from “concessionaires” who would manage day-to-day operations and install facility enhancements under the agency’s oversight.
A “concessionaire” is a person, group, or company to whom a concession has been granted, especially to operate a subsidiary business or service.
“Campgrounds have become far more sophisticated since these facilities were initially installed, as have the expectations of those who use them,” said Bucky Edmondson, TVA senior manager for public outreach and recreation.
“While we recognize that TVA must maintain oversight responsibility, we believe that allowing an experienced concessionaire to manage the operation of these facilities and install upgrades, such as electronic reservation systems, WiFi access and campground stores, will result in a better experience for campers,” Edmondson added.
TVA will host a series of public open house meetings at each facility to provide details about the proposals.
The local meeting – the first scheduled for the campgrounds involved – is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 25, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Watauga Dam Overlook Building.
The proposed agreements, which would take effect in the 2015 camping season, would turn over the day-to-day operations of the camping facilities.
This would include collecting fees, facility upkeep and keeping TVA posted on any issues. TVA will set the overnight camping fee structure, with the concessionaire keeping the revenue to provide operating and maintenance funds.
Day use areas, including picnic, swimming and boat launch facilities, at each of the dam reservations will continue to be free to the public.
The Watauga Dam Campground is currently a self-service campground, with 29 camping sites with electric hookups.

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