“The great thing about the policy [of corporate sponsorships in National Parks] is it protects those features of the park that are important to all of us,” said Jeff Reinbold, the Park Service’s associate director for partnerships and civic engagement, “but it gives us new opportunities and new tools” to respond to donors who perceive the government as too slow to get deals done.”
Google Road on Trail Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park?
Google Auditorium at Beaver Meadows?
But actively seeking corporate sponsorship? This is something different. Our national parks are putting out the begging bowls.
“Will splash a corporate logo for money.”
I don’t fault the NPS administration per se. When the United States is spending what could be over a trillion dollars on the Ford Edsel of fighter planes, but the NPS faces an $11bn shortfall, something has to be done.
But it is a bit of a Faustian bargain.
“Our needs are astronomic,” said Will Shafroth, president and chief executive of the National Park Foundation, the Park Service’s fundraising arm. “The parks don’t have enough money to accomplish their goals.”
But what goals will be met?
The needed money won’t go into maintaining trails, paying for park rangers for patrolling the backcountry, reopening mothballed visitor centers or museums, and so on.
It will be to splash advertisements in high-use and visible areas. And the new corporate sponsors may strongly suggest that perhaps a new auditorium is really needed or perhaps some new Subarus instead?
Trail maintenance, backcountry patrols, more talks, classes, and outreach ain’t sexy.
The corporate sponsors want an ROI. Talks on migrating butterflies or star talks won’t be it.
A multimedia presentation in a splashy new multimedia center with a VERY BIG CORPORATE LOGO? Hell yes.
I just question what benefit there is to corporate sponsorship in parks without some strict stipulations.
The sponsors will exert undue influence on park policies and priorities. The influence that is not in line with maintaining and protecting our resources for future use of the American public.
Don’t think so?
When the NPS tried to have water fountains rather than sell disposable water bottles, Coca-Cola had some strong words against it. Their pet Congress Critter even lobbied against it. The Congress Critter represents a district with many interests in bottled water. Coincidence, I am sure.
If there is more corporate sponsorship in our National Parks, I expect more of these shenanigans.
On paper, corporate sponsorship in our National Parks seems like something that would work. Our parks get needed funds. Corporations get some good PR. People win.
Except I don’t see the influence of corporate sponsorship in our National Parks as a good thing based on past activity. Just look at the history of concessionaires in our NPS units for further evidence. And the demands they make. Or heed Ed Abbey’s warnings about Industrial Tourism (Ever notice, many of our prophets seem to preach from the desert?).
I’ve said before that the largest challenge we face with public lands is not so much acquiring them or protecting the lands. But rather retaining the character of what makes the wildlands wild.
Disney Land is a fine place. And fun for many people.
But we don’t need our National Parks to be Disneyfied.
We need the wildlands to be wild. Or at least not so tamed.
More corporate influence, esp without strict guidelines that will probably not happen, means less wildness.
And more of an experience that benefits the corporate sponsors of our public lands and not us…