This article was originally published by GovWin’s Anthony Critelli
August 25, 1916 is the day President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill creating the National Park Service (NPS) within the Department of the Interior. Interior had previously lacked the organization to effectively manage the then 14 national parks and 21 national monuments. The new agency was largely spurred by a public relations campaign by Chicago businessman Stephen T. Mather and his aide Horace M. Albright.
The initial Blue Ridge Parkway construction was divided into 45 installments. Photo: NPS.
National Park Service Contracting
Common needs for traditional procurement include:
- Constructing buildings
- Road paving
- Office equipment
Contracting opportunities in these areas are available on FedBizOpps.
A type of government contract unique to NPS is concessioner contracts. These contracts involve offering services to national park visitors. The Commercial Services Program handles over 500 concessions contracts that gross over $1 billion annually and employ over 25,000 people during peak season. NPS maintains a list of authorized concessioners. An agency website shows current concessioner solicitations.
NPS handed out more and bigger procurement opportunities at two times in its history – during the Great Depression in the 1930s and during its Mission 66 initiative during the 1950s and 1960s.
The first major contracting spree for the NPS began when President Franklin D. Roosevelt desperately wanted to put Americans back to work during the Great Depression. Groups such as the Civilian Conservation Corps were put together, with work on national parks a major focus. One of the major new park projects initiated was the Blue Ridge Parkway, a limited access roadway to connect Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Interior Secretary Harold Ickes earmarked $4 million for initial Blue Ridge Parkway construction and hired landscape architect Stanley L. Abbott to oversee the project. By having different contractors bidding on road-building work in 45 sections, more contract employees could be hired. Nello Teer Construction won the first contract for $316,000. Other construction contractors included:
- Albert Brothers Construction
- M.E. Gilioz Company
- Chandler Brothers
- Ralph E. Mills Company
- W.H. Armentrout
- Keeley Construction
- Waugh Brothers
Bituminous surfacing contracts went to:
- Corson and Gruman Company
- Southern Asphalt
- Barrett Paving
The Blue Ridge Parkway was started in 1933 and finally completed in 1983 with the completion of the Linn Cove Viaduct. The design and construction of the $10 million project was provided by Figg and Muller Engineers, while construction engineering services were provided by T.Y. Lin International/DRC Consultants. The actual building was done by Jasper Construction.
In 1956, a surge in national park visitors and inadequate facilities led NPS Director Conrad Wirth to initiate Mission 66, a $1 billion ten-year effort to to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the agency in 1966. It is considered one of the biggest federal projects of the last century. The program resulted in 584 new comfort stations, 221 administrative buildings, 36 service buildings, 1,239 units for employee housing, more than 100 new visitor centers and 78 new park units. Some of the more conspicuous achievements were:
Mission 66 money completed the Gateway Arch. Photo: NPS.
- Taking the Blue Ridge Parkway from 1/3 done to near completion
- Allowing completion of the Gateway Arch (Designed by Eero Saarinen and built by MacDonald Construction)
- Building of the Cyclorama Building at Gettysburg National Military Park (Designed by Richard Neutra)
- Building of the controversial and since replaced Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center in Mount Rainier National Park (Designed by Whimberley, Whisenand, Allison & Tong and McGuire & Muri)
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Anthony Critelli follows the latest GovCon developments as news editor for GovWin, a Deltek network that helps government contractors win new business every day. He can be reached at [email protected].