Gulf Islands National Seashore officials are seeking applications to provide commercial services at the Fort Pickens Campground. The services currently requested include a self-dispensing ice machine and laundry machines. Applications by commercial operators will be accepted through April 1, 2018, with services starting before the summer season.

The Fort Pickens Campground Store, which provided many supplies and services to campers in the past, closed at the end of 2016. Efforts to find a new operator for the store were unsuccessful, primarily due to the aging, unappealing store building which was built by the State of Florida nearly 60 years ago when Fort Pickens was a state park. Commercial Use Authorizations provide the national seashore the opportunity to make services available while organizing funding for the buildings rehabilitation or replacement.

The self-dispensing ice machine service requested will be similar to those found on the roadside around the area. The machine will be placed at the campground store location, conveniently located for campers and beach-goers. The machine will be required to accept credit and debit cards and applicants are able to propose the capacity and prices.

The laundry machine service requested will provide at a minimum two washers, two dryers, and laundry supplies vending for the A & C loops of the campground, but may install machines at additional loops. The machines will be installed in the campground restroom buildings which were purpose built for laundry machines accessible through a separate entrance. Machines which accept credit and debit cards are preferred but not required, applicants are able to propose the machines and prices.

Authorizations will be awarded for one year of service. There is a $100 application fee. Interested applicants can find more information and download the application on the park’s website at 
In addition to the ice and laundry service, the national seashore plans to make contracts available for firewood in the campground and food trucks at the Fort Pickens and Perdido Key Areas. “We are committed to providing a full complement of services to visitors and commercial opportunities for local business owners,” said Superintendent Dan Brown. Section 418 of the National Parks Omnibus Management Act of 1998, Public Law 105-391 (Section 418), authorizes the National Park Service, upon request, to issue commercial use authorizations to provide commercial services to park area visitors in limited circumstances.

Ultimately the national seashore plans a large scale rehabilitation of the facilities and layout of the Fort Pickens Campground. As part of that rehabilitation services including campground registration, the campground store, and food services will be consolidated into one area near the entrance to the campground. Currently campground registration is located in the historic lifesaving station, the only one remaining in Florida, a mile and a half from the campground. The project will be dependent upon feasibility and funding.