Park Service Corporate $ Plan Mightily Watered Down
Key Planks Jettisoned While Others Made Contingent on Uncertain Future Steps
Washington, DC — Many of the major proposals from a controversial corporate fundraising plan pushed by the departing National Park Service (NPS) Director have been dropped or scaled back, according to an analysis released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The policy now also calls for extensive follow-up prior to implementation, meaning that much of it may be left in limbo.
Adopted on December 28th, nine months after it was first proposed, the final policy abandons the idea that parks would be expected to rely on private gifts for their base budgets and walks back other provisions –
- Limiting displays of corporate logos inside parks to “credit lines”;
- Ditching requirements that park superintendents must spend significant amounts of time engaged in “donor cultivation” and other fundraising activities and jettisoning the idea that “philanthropic success” would be a core competency for selection and promotion; and
- Eliminating “needs of the donor” as the driving factor in crafting donor recognition agreements.
“The original sweeping plan suffered from sloppy drafting and poorly thought-out concepts,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing out that some unease arose from ethical violations by its main proponent, now-former NPS Director Jon Jarvis, to further a failed fundraising scheme. “We are pleased the Park Service edged away from its complete corporate embrace.”
The final policy does, however, make “donor recognition” mandatory for virtually every park and –
- Greatly expands corporate labeling on everything from park benches to the paving stones under visitors’ feet but does not allow the purchase of naming rights for an entire park;
- Authorizes NPS to officially endorse corporate cause-marketing and to license park images, including the official NPS arrowhead logo; and
- Repeals the long-standing ban on NPS involvement in promoting alcoholic beverages.
In a public statement issued days before his departure, Jarvis decried “misleading” attacks on his plan yet the final changes appear to tacitly concede the validity of most all the concerns raised. Moreover in a stunning lack of transparency, the Park Service failed to specifically line-item the language it changed in its 30-page revision from the 33-page draft it issued for public comment in March. Nor did NPS ever list exactly what it altered from the prior Director’s Order adopted in 2008 under President George W. Bush.
“Our national park system is in a fiscal mess but shilling for corporate sponsorships is neither a seemly nor a sensible solution,” added Ruch, noting the final policy requires that agreement templates and extensive Reference Manual guidance be drafted before the policy can be executed. “We look forward to new Park Service leadership that hopefully is more interested in resource protection than marketing.”