Should Corporate Logos Be Allowed on National Park Signs?

adventure journal poll nps corporate logo

These are not good economic times for public lands in general and national parks in particular. Despite visitation that’s up seven percent over last year (and a fast-growing national economy), the National Park Service is more than $12 billion behind in its maintenance work. Budget cuts and underfunding are chronic.

Senator Tom Coburn, Republican from Oklahoma, has a solution. He wants the National Park Service to place the names and/or logos of corporate and private donors on signs within NPS properties. It’s not a new idea, but in September he introduced Senate bill S. 2873, called the National Park System Donor Acknowledgment Act of 2014, and last week the bill was being tweaked in committee to make it more palatable to the full chamber.

“S. 2873…does not mean that the Grand Canyon will be renamed Coca-Cola Canyon,” he said. “But a named room in a visitors’ center or small business’s plaque on a park bench will be far more appealing to park visitors than dilapidated buildings and pothole-ridden trails.”

The bill has received almost no attention in the mainstream or outdoor media, but it’s definitely on the radar of national park advocates. In a letter to the Energy and Natural Resources committee, Craig Obey of the National Parks Conservation Association wrote, “As drafted, S. 2873 could allow significant commercialization of America’s national parks by allowing the potentially ubiquitous use of logos and advertising slogans on signage and displays virtually anywhere in a national park on land, water, or vegetation as long as they would not obstruct or block natural or historical sites or views. This means displays could be allowed as long as a person could see over or around the display.”

Last summer, the funding issue came before the committee, and Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaskan Republican, said, “We should have tasteful recognition of private donors who are willing to pay for specific maintenance backlog projects, perhaps the naming of a room in a visitors’ center, the naming of a bench. There are dollars, I think, we can bring into the park system, but we need to make it easy. We need to make it worthwhile for these donors.”

So, what do you think? Is the underfunding in parks dire enough to take a step like this? Outside groups like the Yosemite Conservancy already give millions to parks; without that private support, they’d be in far worse shape. Will corporate attaboys encourage more giving? Is it a small gesture that would allow givers to make a big difference? Or is it the first step down a slippery slope that leads to Comcast National Park, despite Coburn’s assurances?

The question as asked applies to the bill in question – not just logos, but names, etc., on benches, rooms, and other spots as described in S. 2873. Please vote, and as Mr. Bumgardner, my 11th grade government teacher used to say, justify your answer.

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adventure journal smith optics serpicoThis week, one poll participant will receive a pair of Smith Optics Serpico sunglasses. We’ll pick the winner via random number generator (and announce it here) – all you have to do to enter is vote and leave a comment so we have your email to contact you. Must have a U.S. or Canadian address. Contest ends Sunday, November 23, at midnight PST.

Congratulations to Donald Schmit, who wins the Smiths this week!

Photo by Kane Jamison

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