The Page-based company that holds the federal contract to lead thousands of people on rafting trips below Glen Canyon Dam will soon lose that part of its business.

In a decision announced last week, the National Park Service chose a subsidiary of Pennsylvania-based Aramark instead of Page’s Colorado River Discovery for the next 10-year concession contract to lead full and half-day river trips from the dam to Lees Ferry.

The National Park Service manages that part of the river as part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

The decision was both a surprise and a major blow to Colorado River Discovery, General Manager Korey Seyler said.

“It’s baffling to me and we're extremely disappointed,” Seyler said.

The trips Colorado River Discovery ran under its Park Service concession contract, which expires at the end of this year, made up the majority of services the company offered, he said.

“There are many questions that the owners and management have to consider in the near future,” Seyler said.

The company has a “laundry list” of ideas and, when asked if one of those included moving away from Page, Seyler said he didn’t know.

“At this point because (the contract) has been taken away, the options truly do open up,” he said. It was the company’s intent to stay in Page, though, he said.

Its proposal to the National Park Service called for investing $600,000 in the first year of the contract and $2 million over the first five years for things like resource protection, interpretation and quality employees, Seyler said. Last year, the company rolled out an all-electric raft that cost more than $300,000 to research, develop and construct, according to news reports at the time. 

The company had nearly 90 employees at its peak last summer, the majority of them seasonal, and last year took 57,000 people down the stretch of the Colorado River below the Glen Canyon Dam, Seyler said. 

“It’s a valuable contract, a great thing to have under your belt,” he said. “We knew people would be coming for it and gunning for it.”

He said he hopes Aramark will hire on many of Colorado River Discovery's seasonal staff for its operations. 

The Park Service did not release the number of proposals it received for the 10-year concession contract, which includes authorization to provide back-hauling services for other small boats between Lees Ferry and their launch site upriver.

A different subsidiary of Aramark already holds a Park Service concession contract to operate marina facilities at several locations on Lake Powell, providing everything from lodging to campground rentals to boat tours. In an email, company spokesman David Freireich wrote that given the company’s familiarity with recreation area, the contract to provide below-dam rafting trips “was a natural opportunity to explore.” The company will be operating the raft trips under the name Glen Canyon Rafting Hospitality.

It also has a history with the rafting contract — a different subsidiary of Aramark was the Glen Canyon rafting concessionaire before Colorado River Discovery was awarded the contract in 2006.

Proposals for the contract were evaluated by a panel of National Park Service representatives outside of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which is standard procedure, NPS spokeswoman Vanessa Lacayo said.

Under the new contract, full-day river trips can be priced between $110 and $145, though 60 percent of trips have to be priced at $110. Half day trips must be priced at $85, Lacayo said. Colorado River Discovery currently charges $87 for half-day trips and $113 for a full-day motor trip. 

Emery Cowan can be reached at (928) 556-2250 or ecowan@azdailysun.com

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