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National Park Service plans to terminate Crater Lake hospitality contract over unsafe conditions

Crater lake, Photo of Wizard Island from atop Watchman Peak on a clear, still day.
Kate Williams
National Park Service
Wizard Island in Crater Lake as seen from Watchman's peak, 2020. Aramark provides boat tours to the island.

The National Park Service is threatening to terminate its contract with the company that manages facilities at Crater Lake National Park. This comes after ongoing problems with basic health and safety standards.

Since 2018 Aramark has provided nearly all visitor services at the park, including food, gift shops, boat tours and lodging through a company it owns called Crater Lake Hospitality.

In a statement, Aramark said it continues to take steps to improve conditions. However, according to annual reports by the Park Service, the quality of their service has worsened since 2019. Last year’s report describes diesel fuel leaks, food safety violations and a significant number of visitor complaints.

"Despite being required to develop a corrective action plan after the marginal rating during their public health inspection, the cleanliness and food safety issues persisted throughout the entire season," reads the 2023 report.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden recently criticized Aramark for some of these same failings. And former staff have described the conditions of employee housing as "disgusting" and "filthy."

Aramark’s 2023 review was the worst rating it’s received since taking over operations at Crater Lake.

In a written statement, Park Service Regional Director David Szymanski said, "Termination would be an extremely rare action, and one we don’t take lightly. But consistent failures to meet contract requirements led to our notice of intent to terminate this contract to protect visitors and park resources."

The contract termination would affect the Oregon Caves National Monument as well, which is also managed by Aramark. Szymanski said the contract would be terminated unless Aramark can provide a reason why it shouldn't be.

The Park Service did not provide a timeline on how soon Aramark could be kicked out of the park. If that does happen, the Park Service would find a short-term contractor to take over operations.

Corrected: February 19, 2024 at 9:30 AM PST
This story has been updated to correct a misspelling of "National Park Service"
Roman Battaglia is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the JPR newsroom.