Mt. Ashland Association to take on some Howard Prairie operations

The Mt. Ashland Association will take over the restaurant and store at Howard Prairie Resort under a tentative contract with Jackson County that will help open the resort as usual next month.

Announced today, the tentative four-year deal will fill part of the void at the resort left when the previous concessionaire defaulted on its contract and the operation reverted back to the county.

Under the agreement, the association will run the restaurant and store while the county will take over operations of the campground and the marina.

The association will pay the county between 2 and 5 percent of its gross revenues from the restaurant and store, with the figure set on a sliding scale based on revenues, county officials said.

The nonprofit association has operated the Mt. Ashland Ski Area since 1992, and runs a restaurant at the ski area. The ski area's operating season runs nearly opposite of Howard Prairie's, which centers around the trout-fishing season of mid-April through October.

Adding the lake to the association's business schedule will allow employees "an easy walk-in" from one restaurant to the other, said Kim Clark, the association's general manager.

The move will help give the association, which has 14 full-time employees and up to 200 part-time and volunteer employees, a better opportunity to keep some of its core staff who otherwise must seek off-season work elsewhere, Clark said.

"It also doesn't hurt that this may be a way to add to our bottom line and diversify things a little bit," Clark said.

John Vial, the county's roads and parks director, said the association met the county's "best fit" threshold for the contract, which had two other bidders.

"They have a very qualified team that's used to working in a facility similar to what's at Howard Prairie and for a clientele similar to what we have at Howard Prairie," Vial said.

The association also is well-seasoned in dealing with "red tape" that sometimes comes with dealing with governmental agencies, Vial said.

"It was a really good fit for the county and them," he said.

The bid deadline was March 22. Other bidders included a Klamath Falls couple and the operators of the Pinehurst Inn at Jenny Creek, Vial said.

Final details of the contract must be worked out and the deal must be approved by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners before it becomes official.

— Mark Freeman

Read more in Saturday's paper.

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