At the urging of a controversial team of advisors, the Trump administration is mulling proposals to privatize national park campgrounds and further commercialize the parks with expanded Wi-Fi service, food trucks and even Amazon deliveries at tourist camp sites.
Leaders of the Interior Department’s “Made in America” Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee say these changes could make America’s national parks more attractive to a digitally minded younger generation and improve the quality of National Park Service facilities amid a huge maintenance backlog. As part of its plan, the committee calls for blacking out senior discounts at park campgrounds during peak holiday seasons.
“Our recommendations would allow people to opt for additional costs if they want, for example, Amazon deliveries at a particular campsite,” said Derrick Crandall, vice chairman of the committee and a counselor with the nonprofit National Park Hospitality Assn. “We want to let Americans make their own decisions in the marketplace.”
But the group’s proposals face angry opposition from conservation organizations and senior citizen advocates, who call them a transfer of public assets to private industry, including businesses led by executives appointed to the Outdoor Advisory Committee.
“America’s outdoor heritage is on the line,” said Jayson O’Neill, deputy director of the Western Values Project, a nonprofit public lands watchdog group in Montana. “The trouble with these recommendations is that they were written by concessionaire industry representatives vying for more control of national parks.”
Amazon deliveries in Yellowstone. Maybe they can pave a road across Old Faithful to make it easier. Exactly what Stephen Mather had in mind. And who are these people behind this?
According to a memo first published by the Washington Post, business services officials of the National Park Service in 2017 warned that four people nominated to serve on the panel had potential conflicts of interest.
Three of them were selected as members: Crandall, whose association includes some of the largest concessions management companies in the U.S.; Jeremy Jacobs Jr., co-chief executive of Delaware North Cos., Yosemite National Park’s former facilities operator, whose family has donated at least $167,700 to Trump’s campaigns and political committees; and Bruce Fears, president of Aramark, which holds a $2-billion contract to run hotels, eateries and campgrounds at Yosemite.
In 2017, Delaware North hired Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, the Denver-based law and lobbying firm where Interior Secretary David Bernhardt previously worked.
The first Gilded Age sucked. The second sucks too.