When the National Park Service floated the idea last year of naming various rooms, benches and bricks throughout the nation’s park system after corporate and individual philanthropists, many purists were aghast, claiming that such a move would open the door to increased commercialization and a corporate takeover of America’s natural and cultural treasures. Those same purists breathed a sigh of relief last week, however, when Park Service director Fran Mainella told reporters his agency would drop the contentious proposal in favor of preserving the status quo.
Opponents of the proposal had voiced their concerns during a six-month comment period initiated by the Park Service last year. For his part, National Parks Conservation Association president Tom Kierna praised the public comment process, happy that the proposal was nixed. "We give the Park Service significant credit for releasing a strong guidance on the appropriate role of philanthropy."
Currently about $100 million in donations augments the more than $2 billion required to run the 390 units of the national park system on an annual basis. Park Service managers dreamed up the naming proposal as a way to incentivize donors to contribute larger sums in the wake of successive budget cuts handed down by the Bush administration.