State parks stay open by selling sponsorships

Yosemite with WalletPop logo on mountain sideAs states scramble to fill yawning canyons in their state budgets, it should come as no surprise that they are willing to accept corporate sponsorship money. Leading the way, that state of great natural beauty and profound fiscal irresponsibility, California. According the USA Today, the state has received close to $6 million over the past 3 years by accepting corporate partners.

The state does have some criteria for what it will accept, limiting sponsorships to companies "with innovative and generous charitable programs," particularly ones that emphasize "environmental, historical and cultural awareness, healthful living, education and high-quality outdoor recreation."

Among the current companies that are "Proud Partners" of the state are
  • Coca-Cola, in partnership with Stater Bros. Markets
  • Bosch
  • The American Chemistry Council
  • Subaru
  • Knudsen Creamery
  • Travelocity
  • The Oakland Raiders professional football team

Among the ways that this partnership has taken shape:
  • Coca-Cola/Stater Bros. Markets raised money to plant over a million trees.
  • Subaru donated six Outbacks for park staff use.
  • The Oakland Raiders promoted the state park system during home games.
  • Knudsen Creamery raised $100,000 for the state park foundation.
California is not alone in selling sponsorships. New Hampshire is in discussions with Eastern Mountain Sports. Georgia has Verizon Wireless to thank for funding a Boy Scout program to maintain and repair its state parks. Virginia enjoys the support of another outdoor equipment manufacturer, North Face, which gives those who purchase $50 or more of its goods free passes to some of the state's most popular parks. Expect more states to jump on the bandwagon in the near future.

None of the states has yet gone full Monty on selling sponsorships; there are no Budweiser Falls or Kendell Motor Oil's Salt Flats. Remember, though, that 50 years ago there were no stadiums named after corporations. Who knows -- Perhaps in the not-too-distant future, you might enjoy a vacation at WalletPop National Park, formerly known as Yosemite.
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