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The new operators of the Peaks of Otter Lodge say they will routinely close during the winter.
The Roanoke Times | File 2012
The new operators of the Peaks of Otter Lodge, at milepost 86 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, have not set an opening date.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
The Peaks of Otter Lodge and Restaurant won’t be open year-round when its new operator takes over this summer.
The lodge will be open April through November, according to Laura Gray, a communications specialist for Delaware North Companies, which last week won a 10-year contract with the National Park Service to run the lodge.
Gray said that Delaware North has not set a date for the lodge to reopen at milepost 86 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Bedford County. The lodge closed in November after having been open year-round since 1977.
It was unclear Tuesday whether being open “through November,” as Gray wrote in an email, means that the restaurant will be open for its popular Thanksgiving buffet.
“We were just granted the contract so unfortunately I do not yet have those answers,” Gray wrote. “I know there is a lot of interest in Peaks of Otter and guests are excited to hear about what’s to come.”
Delaware North has vast experience running lodges, restaurants, concessions operations and other guest operations at several national parks, including Yosemite, Yellowstone and Grand Canyon. The company is operating its first season with Shenandoah National Park, located at the northern terminus of the parkway. The 469-mile scenic road connects Shenandoah National Park with Great Smoky Mountains National Park in western North Carolina.
Delaware North will operate the lodge, restaurant, gift shop, country store and shuttle bus to the top of Sharp Top, one of the twin peaks.
Some Bedford County business owners who rely on the tourist trade have said the lodge’s closing has hurt their bottom lines this past winter and spring. However, Bedford tourism director Sergei Troubetzkoy said that even a seasonal opening will be beneficial to the local economy.
Even though the lodge’s past management company claimed that it stayed open year-round, Troubetzkoy said that harsh weather often forced the lodge to close to the public in past winters. Many times, icy conditions and downed trees closed the parkway in the lodge’s vicinity.
“Very rarely were they open the entire winter,” Troubetzkoy said. “The restaurant may have been open at times, but many times sections of the parkway were closed, so they could not open in the ice and snow.”
Troubetzkoy said that he expects the company will conduct repairs at the lodge when it closes after the fall travel season.
Other issues yet to be resolved include whether the lodge and restaurant’s 60 former employees will be considered for positions with the new company and what changes, renovations or upgrades Delaware North plans for the lodge’s 63 rooms, which have no telephones or Internet service.
Rick Abramson, Delaware North’s president of parks and resorts, said in a news release last week that the company “will bring experienced management staff and chefs to Peaks of Otter.” He also said his company will implement its environmental management system called GreenPath at the lodge and restaurant.
According to Delaware North’s website (www.delawarenorth.com), GreenPath incorporates environmental considerations into the company’s business decisions, which include reducing waste, planning activities with limited environmental impacts, carrying goods sold in recycled packaging and relying on local providers for many retail goods.
The lodge, which opened in 1964, closed last year after Thanksgiving when the previous manager, Peaks of Otter of Virginia and its parent company, Crestline Hotels & Resorts, opted not to renew a contract with the park service. Crestline and its predecessor Tidewater Hotels & Resorts had run the facility since 1989.
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