Naming rights for America’s National Parks are about to go the way of sports arenas and stadiums as corporate commercialization comes to the country’s most beloved destinations.
“A Coca-Cola Visitor Center will still be off-limits, but an auditorium at Yosemite National Park named after Coke will now be permitted,” explains the Washington Post. “Naming rights to roads are not up for grabs, but visitors could tour Bryce Canyon in a bus wrapped in the Michelin Man.”
According to the national park systems director Jonathan Jarvis, opening the door to corporate sponsorship will only help to preserve the national park system for future generations.
“The great thing about the policy is it protects those features of the park that are important to all of us,” Jeff Reinbold, the Park Service’s associate director for partnerships and civic engagement, told the Post, “but it gives us new opportunities and new tools,” he says that can speed up processes often stalled by bureaucratic red tape.
The shift comes after a major backlog of maintenance projects—more than $11 billion worth. “It’s about aligning [the parks and private companies] with the values of authenticity” the Park Service represents, Reinbold said. “The American narrative.”
The country’s national parks have long represented a time before corporate agendas—they’re not only stunning landscapes and tourist attractions, but they’re vital in the preservation of land, water, animals, and plants that also help define our national identity.
The move is being met with aggressive backlash and concern that the corporatization of the national park system will dilute its very purpose—industry is at the forefront of global warming, habitat loss, and pollution.
Or, it could be a sign that corporations are starting to listen to its customers’ concerns not just about the quality of the products, but also their impact on the environment. In just the first half of 2016, major corporations have made commitments away from artificial food ingredients, toxic chemicals, and shifted toward transparency about genetically modified organisms. Stewards of the partnerships see it as a step in the best direction possible.
“Our needs are astronomic,” said Will Shafroth, president and chief executive of the National Park Foundation, the Park Service’s fundraising arm. “The parks don’t have enough money to accomplish their goals.”
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Grand Canyon image via Shutterstock