Park Service Approves Policy That Allows Corporate Names Inside National Parks

Image courtesy of afagen

While we were all snoozing in between Christmas and the new year, the National Park Service went ahead and approved revisions to its policy that will allow some corporate logos and signage within park boundaries in the country’s public places, despite public backlash against the idea. Some critics think this is a very bad, terrible, no good idea.

On Dec. 28, NPS announced that Director Jonathan Jarvis had signed and finalized revisions to Director’s Order #21, which 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.

Advocacy group Public Citizen says this move is “disgraceful,” and allows our national parks to the sold to “the highest bidder.”

“Now that this policy has been finalized, park visitors soon could be greeted with various forms of advertisements, like a sign reading ‘brought to you by McDonald’s’ within a new visitor’s center at Yosemite, or ‘Budweiser’ in script on a park bench at Acadia,” says Kristen Strader, program coordinator for Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert program.

Strader points out that we as a society are constantly inundated with advertising everywhere we go, but that national parks offered a beautiful, valuable respite from all of that.

“The finalization of Director’s Order #21 signals a dangerous shift toward opening our parks up to an unprecedented amount of commercial influence,” Strader says in a statement.

As for that idea of a bench reading “Budweiser,” an NPS spokesperson tells Consumerist that under the new guidelines, the NPS “will only permit philanthropic partnerships with corporations that produce or distribute alcohol after thorough review.” The only person who can make that final decision to authorize a partnership is the director of NPS, “to ensure that decisions to engage in these relationships are considered at the highest level.

“The NPS will not authorize cause marketing campaigns with an alcoholic beverage producer with any in-park components beyond limited and general statements of thanks, similar to those used for the Centennial nor will the NPS approve associated promotional material that encourages or glorified underage or irresponsible consumption,” the spokesman adds.

Director Jarvis noted in NPS’ announcement that there will be no”commercialization” of parks.

“While there will continue to be opportunities for limited donor recognition in parks, no one is going to commercialize national parks and park superintendents still won’t be allowed to solicit donations,” Jarvis said. “We have federal law to back us up on that.”

In September, Public Citizen and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood published the public’s comments on the proposal after NPS failed to do so, and said that 78% of commenters opposed changes to the policy. At the time, NPS said that it “greatly values the deep interest Americans have in preserving and protecting their national parks,” and would “carefully consider public feedback as we finalize updates to policies guiding the longstanding tradition of philanthropic support for national parks.”

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