Washington, DC — The National Park Service has taken a big step back from previously announced plans to increase corporate donations through direct solicitations by park officials in return for greater “donor recognition” in the form of in-park displays and christening of park features, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In a decision announced earlier this week, the Park Service only slightly liberalized advertising and donor recognition rules, after receiving more than 1,000, largely negative, public comments against its more extensive plan announced last December 5th.
Under its new, final “Donations and Fundraising Policy” the Park Service would explicitly authorize—
- Corporate advertising featuring a tie-in to donation to park causes. Such advertising agreements could provided “‘exclusivity’ at the national level for a product or service category” but would forbid corporate use of the Park Service “arrowhead” symbol or the agency uniform;
- Donor plaques or other “non-intrusive displays”; and
- Web and video links from park websites or kiosks to those of corporate donors.
The Park Service has been negotiating exclusive corporate “Proud Partner” arrangements with Ford Motor Co. and Coca Cola, for example.
“While we are pleased by agency promises not to commercialize national parks, the unmistakable thrust of this action is to allow the corporate camel to slip its nose under the tent flap,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization spearheaded opposition to the earlier Park Service plans. “The Park Service solemnly vows that it will remain only a little bit pregnant.”
The agency’s final plan did, however, drop many of its more controversial aspects, including:
- Allowing Park Service employees to directly solicit donations;
- Naming of rooms, benches and other park furnishings after corporate donors; and
- Displaying advertising, slogans or corporate logos inside parks or on park vehicles.
“The Park Service appears to have heard the criticism and stepped back from the more extreme forms of Disneyfication that it had been endorsing only months before,” Ruch added, noting growing financial pressures on the national park system. “The test will be whether the Park Service can resist the siren song of corporate dollars when there are strings attached to the gifts.”