by Kate Shunney
After a flurry of feedback from the public about a potential clash between mountain bike trails at Cacapon State Park and the possible development of an RV campground at the park, West Virginia State Park officials put out a statement late last week on the issue.
The West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which oversees the park system, released a request for proposals (RFP) late in 2022 looking for an established campground developer to offer a detailed plan about adding camping to Cacapon Resort’s offerings.
State officials noted that Cacapon State Park is one of few state parks with no significant camping facilities. There is already a private vendor, Tentrr, which operates a limited number of canvas-tent “glamping” sites on top of Cacapon Mountain seasonally.
“This RFP is for a private firm to finance, plan, develop, construct, and operate a campground at Cacapon Resort State Park and to do the same for unspecified recreational facilities not already offered at Cacapon Resort,” said DNR officials.
Proposals and bids are due to the DNR by March 3 for evaluation. Vendors will have an opportunity to make oral presentations to those evaluating the proposals, and a public hearing will be held on any qualifying proposals. The RFP can be reviewed at WVstateparks.com/bids-and-procurement.
“No specific sites within the park have been selected for this potential development. Management of existing facilities at Cacapon are not a part of the RFP. WVDNR will continue to manage and operate these facilities,” said state park officials.
Where to put it?
The 40-page RFP document says one potential area for a campground would be behind the existing Nature Center. Park officials said a couple years ago that was the site under consideration because of its relative flatness and proximity to park activity areas, the picnic loop and lake.
The RFP says other sites could be considered, but “the vendor will develop a plan whereby any existing trails that would be impacted by the construction of these facilities be appropriately relocated or integrated seamlessly into the facility designs.”
That directive was released after some discussion that a campground behind the Nature Center would cut through the mountain bike trails built over several years by volunteers and through grant funds.
More bike trails are already planned as part of a major $3.5 million U.S. EDA grant, and the DNR has said it expects any campground plans to “compliment” those trail plans.
“Park Management on site have exhibited great leadership in the development of this trail system through enabling robust volunteerism, coordination with professional designers, inclusivity of stakeholders, and outreach to user groups that has resulted in making Cacapon’s existing mountain biking trail system one of the best in West Virginia,” said West Virginia State Parks Chief Brad Reed. “We see this potential public/private development as an opportunity to compliment and greatly enhance recreational and leisure experiences for visitors of all ages.”
Cacapon State Park has seen major investments from the state in the last several years, including upgrades to its 31 cabins and construction of a new lodge wing that added 74 rooms to its accommodations.
According to data included in the RFP document, Cacapon’s lodge occupancy between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022 (fiscal year 2022), spanned between 13.8% in the lowest month of January 2022 to 51.7% in April 2022.
Cabin occupancy ranged from 50% in January to 93% in July 2022.
The state’s requirements for a campground proposal are extensive.
The RFP specifies any vendor making a proposal should have been in the field of campground operations for more than 10 years, and have designed, built and operated or managed a minimum of five major (50 sites of more) campgrounds in their business portfolio.
A vendor will be responsible for bringing or finding the financing to design, construct and operate the campground operation themselves, apply for and receive any permitting required by the business, hire their own staff, cooperate with the park and West Virginia Tourism to create promotional materials, pay a certain percentage of profits to the DNR, hold major liability insurance, maintain the campground to sanitary and attractive standards and follow DNR rules about permitted park activities.
Plans should include market research on a need for a campground at Cacapon, user demographics, the potential for profit from the campground, a preliminary site plan including details about lighting, potable water, wastewater treatment, trash disposal, roadways and fire suppression. Vendors are asked to provide a sales forecast, financial plan, sales strategy and plan for hiring staff.
The DNR will require an approved vendor to finance, design and build all of the campsites within 24 months following a contract signing.
Evaluation of any proposals is set to begin on March 13, with a public hearing not yet scheduled.
The subject of the RV park RFP is on the February 1 agenda of the Morgan County Commission at 10:50 a.m.