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May 10, 2016

U.S. Park Service Eyes Naming Rights for Corporate Donors

The director of the National Park Service has proposed expanded rules on philanthropy that would make some facilities at the country’s 411 national parks available to be named for corporate contributors, writes The Washington Post. Agency head Jonathan Jarvis’s plan, due to take effect by the end of 2016, aims to significantly boost fundraising in the face of an $11 billion backlog of maintenance projects and flat Congressional funding for the system.

The new rules keep major facilities such as visitor centers off-limits but would allow naming gifts on features ranging from paving stones and benches to educational programs, endowed positions, and auditoriums. A ban on recognizing donors with advertising displays would remain in place. The Park Service is already testing some naming opportunities as part of a $350 million campaign marking its centennial this year.

Jeff Reinbold, the agency’s associate director for partnerships and civic engagement, said the policy “protects those features of the park that are important to all of us” while giving the Park Service “new opportunities and new tools” to woo donors. The plan has drawn strong criticism from watchdogs and park advocates who say it opens the door to creeping commercialization of the park system.