NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Corporate Alliances Help Keep State Parks Afloat

September 7, 2010

A visitor has to look closely to find it, but in a remote mountain forest of Southern California is a sign of what's to come for state parks across the United States -- corporate logos.  From California to New York, states are turning to corporations for financial backing as recession and budget woes prompt cuts in public dollars to maintain parks, says USA Today.

  • California parks have received nearly $6 million from corporate sponsorship programs over the past three years, says Ruth Coleman, California state parks director.
  • That's small compared with a $300 million operating budget, but in a system where hours of operation have been cut and park workers put in three unpaid furlough days a month, every dollar is important.
  • Georgia has hired an agency to help find corporate sponsors for its parks, says Kim Hatcher, public affairs coordinator for Georgia state parks.
  • In Virginia, state parks have received an estimated $5 million in corporate contributions over the past five years, says Joe Elton, state parks director.
  • In Washington state, parks spokeswoman Virginia Painter says officials are studying California's program but are moving cautiously because of concerns about potential public backlash.

Most states are still in the early stages, testing public reaction to the idea and seeking potential sponsors, says Philip McKnelly, executive director of the National Association of State Park Directors.  He says "extremely harsh budget times" have made parks and recreation programs among the first to fall under the budget ax and left officials with few options to avoid closing parks, says USA Today.

Source: William M. Welch, "Corporate alliances help keep state parks afloat," USA Today, September 3, 2010.

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