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Paddleboarding, casual eats in future for Fire Island

Visitors get off the ferry from Sayville at

Visitors get off the ferry from Sayville at the Sailors Haven Marina on July 6, 2013. Credit: Newsday / Linda Rosier

The Fire Island National Seashore wants to offer more services at Sailors Haven and transform the Watch Hill restaurant into a more casual place to eat, according to a prospectus for new concessionaires.

The aim is to adapt the two marinas to the ways visitors’ preferences have changed, since Sayville-based Fire Island Concessions LLC was awarded the current contract nearly a decade ago, said Kathleen Karhnak-Glasby, a Philadelphia-based National Park Service manager.

Since then, stand-up paddleboarding and healthier food have become much more popular. And some of today’s busy vacationers wish to spend more time relaxing instead of setting up everything themselves, she said.

For example, they might like the concessionaire to not just rent them camping equipment, but do everything from stocking their tents with food stored in a cooler to hanging their lanterns for them, she said.

“A lot of factors change over the course of 10 years,” the manager said.

To give the new concessionaire more flexibility, the National Park Service is defining the services a new concessionaire must offer much more broadly.

Instead of a specific list that includes boating supplies, and groceries and sundries, the new prospectus simply says “retail services.”

Similarly, the current contract limits the concessionaire to “boat and kayak rentals,” but the new prospectus would allow paddleboards by expanding this category to the more general “equipment rentals,” Karhnak-Glasby said.

Healthier options will join traditional fare on the menus at both the snack bar at Sailors Heaven and at the Watch Hill restaurant.

And at Watch Hill, the restaurant will switch to a more casual and less costly menu “rather than a fine-dining, sit-down restaurant,” said Karhnak-Glasby.

New options are expected to include a buffet or table service, coupled with what is called “fast-casual,” which means visitors order their food at a counter.

The National Park Service also adjusted the financial terms in the new contract, raising the minimum franchise fee, set as a percentage of gross receipts, to 15 percent from the current 3.5 percent, Karhnak-Glasby said.

The fee is being increased partly because the new concessionaire will not have to upgrade the facilities the way the current one did.

“Under this one, we are only requiring some repairs to the entrance ramp at Watch Hill,” she said.

The National Park Service estimated gross receipts for the spring to autumn season average about $1 million a year.

The marina at Watch Hill has 173 slips; Sailors Haven has 44 slips, according to the prospectus.

Karhnak-Glasby said a new operator should be in place by early next year.

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