Unlike Disneyland, our national parks serve a purpose far beyond immediate visitor enjoyment and revenue generation; they are supposed to preserve the best of our natural and cultural resources for future generations.
Putting these values at risk, the National Park Service (NPS) is poised to begin aggressively seeking corporate sponsorship for park projects and using agency personnel as fundraisers. The plan will give corporate donors expanded naming rights, use of National Park symbols in advertising and much greater influence over park managers and their decisions.
In a fundamental shift, NPS would rely on private gifts to support its base budget, increasing its dependence on corporate money – and with corporate dollars comes corporate influence.
For the first time, NPS would:
- Authorize agency officials to solicit gifts from corporations on government time;
- Require park superintendents to spend large amounts of official time on private fundraising. The plan makes “philanthropic success” a core requirement to serve in an NPS leadership position; and
- Divert tax dollars from park maintenance to donor maintenance, assembling databases of current and prospective donors, conducting marketing “feasibility studies” and developing “donor recognition” (naming rights and other concessions) plans.
This would significantly expand corporate branding both inside and outside parks, with corporate logos on park benches, equipment, interior spaces, landscaped areas, paving stones, even theater seating, while licensing park names, landmarks and symbols for corporate marketing campaigns.