While we Americans celebrate the 100th anniversary of our National Park Service, America's so-called "leaders" are aggressively commercializing our parks, converting these jewels of the common good into just another corporate cash cow.
This started with "co-branding" agreements, rationalized by NPS officials as "aligning the economic and historical legacies" of parks with advertisers.
In other words, they are selling the Park Service's proud public brand... as well as its soul.
First in line was Coca-Cola. In 2010, the multibillion-dollar colossus became a "Proud Partner" with NPS by making a mere $2.5 million tax-deductible donation.
In return, Coke got exclusive rights to use park logos in its ads — and it also was allowed to veto an NPS plan to ban sales of bottled water in the Grand Canyon park.
Disposable plastic bottles are that park's biggest source of trash, but Coke owns the Dasani brand of water, so bye-bye ban on bottled water. Public outrage forced officials to reverse this crass move, but NPS' integrity has yet to recover.
Then this April, the Park Service abandoned its policy of rejecting any ties to alcohol products when Anheuser-Busch also became a Proud NPS Partner by making a $2.5 million tax-deductible "gift."
In turn, its Budweiser brand was given the Statue of Liberty. Not literally, but symbolically — Bud now has the right to plaster Lady Liberty, the iconic symbol of the USA itself, on its cans.
Creeping commercialization of our public parks is not creeping, it's running rampant!
For example, take a whiff of this: In return for becoming a Proud Partner, Air Wick was authorized to market a new fragrance collection that it advertises as being "uniquely inspired by America's national parks."
Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.