I was surprised to read about a special event held on Alcatraz Island last Saturday. As described in this San Francisco Chronicle article, there was a private party held especially to market the Toyota Scion. Quoted from the article -
"It took six months of us reaching out to convince the National Parks Service to let us do this,'' said Prem Kumta of Flavor Group. (It probably didn't hurt that Toyota donated a Scion to the Parks Conservancy.) Brand-new Scions were parked on the path leading up to the prison and on the ferry dock in San Francisco;
Using Park Service managed property to help sell cars for Toyota? This just doesn't sit right. It's as if the mission were changed so that conserving and protecting Alcatraz unimpaired as a historic object is important, not for future generations, but for holding knock-out private parties. If this type of activity is acceptable, what is next? How will other car manufacturers react?
I can just imagine that Jeep would love to hold something special at Arches National Park during the annual Easter off-road event in Moab, UT. Jeep would probably love to give you the opportunity to test drive the new Grand Cherokee up and down the roads next to the same red arches that appear in their ads. Not to be outdone, where do you suppose Humvee would want to market their SUVs? Maybe they'd want to emphasize their military connection and market their vehicles in one of our many war memorials. I'm sure there would be wide-spread excitement at the site of Humvees lined up to greet folks on the path to the Vietnam Memorial.
Our national parks were not intended to be used as a tool for marketing agencies. And, while the Scion promotion may have been a one-time event, it creates a precedent that others can use as justification for the next commercial promotion. A line has been crossed, and that is bad for the parks.