Saturday, January 13, 2007

This Summer Visit a Public Private National Park Near You!

The new director of America’s National Parks praised the department’s business savvy. Mary Bomar took over as National Park Chief last October. She inherited a challenging situation according to the GAO.

A Government Accountability Office report last year said the Park Service is increasingly cutting back on visitor services, education programs and protections for natural and cultural resources because funding has failed to keep pace with operating costs. The agency also has a huge maintenance backlog.

In her department’s defense Mary said the following:

Bomar said the Park Service acknowledges it has challenges, including shrinking staff, aging facilities and a diminished visitor experience. Parks have also lost some of their relevancy and connections to younger generations, she said.

She said philanthropy will be a big part of a plan to revitalize and restore parks for the agency's 100th anniversary in 2016, announced this year as an effort called the "centennial challenge." The agency wants to "look at projects where we could match and leverage funding," she said. "Why not?"

Let’s see, National Parks funding has been stunted by tax breaks for the rich, yet Mary wants to approach foundations funded by many of those same rich citizens for money? The question is why? Most granting agencies don’t fund operational expenses but are happy to contribute to large capital campaigns for new facilities. This sounds like a recipe for exacerbating the Park’s current problems, that huge maintenance backlog.

The agency is bringing in around 12 percent of its budget from outside sources, while a decade ago almost all of the budget was federally appropriated. Officers have been holding meetings with private interests to increase awareness of the agency's fundraising efforts.

Much of the private support for national parks comes through the National Park Foundation, chartered by Congress in 1967. In past years, companies such as American Airlines Inc., Discovery Communications Inc., Eastman Kodak Co. and Ford Motor Co. have each donated millions to parks.

So get out and enjoy the public private national park near you this summer. Options to choose from include:

Ford’s Red Bus Glacier National Park
Canon’s Yellowstone National Park
Lipton Tea’s Healthy Parks-Healthy Living Program
Log Cabin Syrup’s Historical Log Cabin Restoration Program

This is all perpetuated by Unilever’s National Park Congressional Internship Program. What can we expect in the near future? Will it be?

OFF’s Everglades National Park
Conoco Phillips’ Big Bend National Park
QuickSilver’s Cape Hatteras National Seashore

If you are curious who provides the leadership for this innovative foundation a list of board members is on their website. It is well appointed with corporate leaders. Haven’t I seen something like this before? Welcome to the government industrial monstrosity…

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