No, The National Park Service Isn’t Going To Give Away Park Naming Rights To Corporate Sponsors

Image courtesy of Hammerin Man

Recently, the National Park Service announced a proposed donor recognition program that would allow individuals and companies to have their names displayed on things like programs, benches, and other interior spaces at parks as a way to raise much-needed funds. In case that news made folks fear a future that includes The Pepsi Grand Canyon, the agency is taking steps to clarify exactly what the program would entail.

The policies for donors outlined in a proposed director’s order [PDF] that is still under review — and wouldn’t become final and signed until later this year — lets parks recognize donors with labels on certain things, but would not let corporations or anyone else rename parks like Yellowstone or features like Old Faithful. No logos or ad language will be allowed either.

“It’s something that we have debated for years, and it is something that the donor community came to us interested in, wanting to know what possibilities there might be,” Jeff Reinbold, assistant director for partnerships and civic engagement at the NPS told National Geographic. He says the changes are inspired by how universities and museums handle donor recognition.

Many donors aren’t corporate, he points out, noting that there’s been more interest in the program on the individual level.

To that end, some companies might not even be interested in the program’s options, one expert explains. Simply adding a name to something “has pretty limited value,” Bill Chipps, a senior editor for the marketing news and insight website IEG Sponsorship Report tells National Geographic.

“So I certainly do not see this opening up the floodgates to any kind of rampant corporate signage in national parks.”

There are still some concerns about the program, including from independent National Parks Conversation Association, which says some of the new donor recognition methods could take away from the park going experience: corporate logos and wraps will be allowed on vehicles that donors have funded, for example.

That kind of thing “can detract from the experience of visitors who go to parks because they are places of refuge to get away from commercialization,” John Gardner, the director of budget and appropriations for the NPCA tells National Geographic.

Pepsi Presents Old Faithful? Not So Fast, Says Park Service. [National Geographic]

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