Hot Springs Hoopla Goads Government

The park is not the city, and the city is not the park. Photo by Lance and Erin via Flickr.

hoop•la (h p lä , h p -) n. Informal
1.
a. Boisterous, jovial commotion or excitement.
b. Extravagant publicity
2. Talk intended to mislead or confuse.

The National Park Service wants to make the Arkansas city named Hot Springs stop calling itself Hot Springs National Park. The city, however, wants to trumpet its name and association with the national park ever more loudly.

Hot Springs is the principal city of the Hot Springs Metropolitan Statistical Area, the county seat of Garland County, Arkansas, and (with a population 39,064) the10th most populous city in the state of Arkansas.

The National Park Service has long complained that the city advertises its existence and amenities in ways that do not clearly distinguish the city of Hot Springs from Hot Springs National Park. To eliminate any potential source of confusion, the federal government wants the city to stop advertising itself as Hot Springs National Park.

The city disagrees that its advertising tactics are confusing, and has been downright confrontational on this issue.

Things have heated up lately. Last month the Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission, having lost its appeal of a court order, grudgingly took down a "Hot Springs National Park" city flag that had been flying at Hot Springs Mountain Tower, a 216-foot high observation tower that is operated in the park under a concession contract. The Park Service also demanded that maps distributed at the Mountain Tower include a disclaimer that the businesses named on the map are not endorsed by the National Park Service or Hot Springs National Park.

Despite its recent setback on the flag issue, the city of Hot Springs continues to trumpet its association with the park in ways that can be said to blur the distinction between the two entities. As of this writing [June 25], the website of the
Hot Springs Mountain Tower bears a logo and a mailing address that do not sit well with the Park Service. Visitors to this website are told:

For more information, write or call:
Hot Springs Mountain Tower
P.O. Box K
Hot Springs Nat'l. Park, AR 71902
(501) 623-6035

The logo just to the left of this mailing address and phone number reads HOT SPRINGS (all in caps) at the top and National Park (in fine print) at the bottom. If you click on this logo, you are taken to a site that invites you to obtain tourist information for visits to Hot Springs, Arkansas. There is no mistaking the intent. A prominent tag line reads "Things to Do & City Information." Just above it is a picture of happy water skiers. Just below it is this invitation:

Planning on taking a vacation this year or just want to get away for the weekend? Hot Springs offers a variety of Vacation Packages to meet anyone's needs or desires. To find out more about Hot Springs and everything it has to offer, fill in the form below.

On Tuesday, June 22, the city launched an advertising campaign based on the distribution of 5,000 free promotional license plates (front plates, that is) bearing the city’s logo, the words “Hot Springs National Park Arkansas," and the city’s Web address hotsprings.org. Campaign organizers hope that nonresidents who see the plates will be reminded of the park/city and be inspired to visit.

Stay tuned, folks. This is getting real interesting.

Comments

Well, who was there first? The city or the park service? The answer to that could possibly be the solving of the problem, while at the same time, eliminate the free advertising they are both getting while the squabble continues .

That city has become so run down and dirty, it probably doesn't make much difference what name they use.

I take offense to the comment that our beautiful town is dirty and run down...it has seen a resurgence in the past 10 years due to the Advertising and Promotions Committee...it boasts the largest convention center in the state which brings in countless visitors to our city each year! Without them the city/park would NOT have the millions of visitors each year. They have the budget and ability to promote and advertise our fair city...you can't tell me that the National Park does not benefit from all of the great things that they do. As to who was here first....the indians were...this has long been sacred spot...long before the park came along...Hot Springs was here first!

Until the past few years we have always enjoyed a great working relationship with the NPS...why now is this such an issue... Josie Fernandez, Park Superintendent, has done nothing but pick fights since she got here...tell me what is wrong with a map that does nothing but point out all of the attractions our city has to offer in a facility run by the A&P Commission? And license plates...please...they do nothing but promote and let people know that we are proud of our town!

Outside of the National Park...we have some of the most beautiful lakes in the country in some of the most beautiful scenery, outstanding golf, great accommodations, ...we one of the oldest Thoroughbred Racing Parks in the country, an ORV Park...the Park is a small part of our city, yet we are very proud to be a part of it...there is nothing I would like more than to see Superintendent Fernandez promoted out of here so that we can once again enjoy the relationship we once had.

Hot Springs is, IMHO, hardly National Park worthy as is. (National Historic Park, yes.) The dispute could easily be resolved by offering the city one of two alternatives--either the park is downgraded to a National Historic Park or the city provides additional land and funding to make the park truly National Park worthy. Of course, this is politically unfeasible.

To Anonymous - changing the name of a national park unit does not "downgrade" it. The title designations have no rhyme or reason. Hence, Hot Springs National Park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and so on. Changing the name might be a good idea - but it has nothing to do with status.

>>it has nothing to do with status.<<

Theoretically....;-)

This can't possibly be a priority for an agency that is supposedly underfunded and over-extended in its mission. What difference does any of this make? It is just another local public relations black eye waiting to happen for an organization that seems to lose more and more of its credibility and relevance with each passing day.

By the way, is it still necessary for the federal taxpayer to be running this place? It seems that this is just the sort of unit that could easily be transferred to a number of entities either public or private.

Is this park a crown jewel? Wouldn't a national historic designation suffice and then see if someone else might be interested in running it? That this unit pays to have on staff a national park superintendent just like Glacier or Yosemite (at a similar pay rate I would presume) seems not only silly but an insulting affront to hard working taxpayers everywhere. I say let this artifact from a bygone era of park designations join Platt National Park in the history books as a hot spring site that came and then went away as a named national park.

My article initially stated that the city is named Hot Springs National Park, and that the Park Service is demanding that the city change its name. Both of these assertions are incorrect. The official name of the city is Hot Springs, Arkansas, and the Park Service has no quarrel with the official name of the city. After MRC brought these blunders to my attention (nice catch, MRC), I edited the article to correct these mistakes and added some clarifying information about the specific city actions that have aroused the ire of the Park Service. The bottom line remains the same: the Park Service wants the city of Hot Springs, Arkansas, to quit advertising itself in ways that blur the distinction between the city and Hot Springs National Park.

Thanks for the clarification Bob. It still seems to be a petty issue on the part of the NPS and I hope they can find more meaningful things to carp about besides the distinguishing factors that separate them from the town of Hot Springs, Arkansas.

For an agency that is constantly touting the importance of "partnerships" this type of public squabbling with local stakeholders seems way off base. The superintendent there probably needs to be instructed in how to engage a gateway, or in this case, host community in a cooperative relationship.

I'm not positive that I'm reading this correctly, but my understanding is that the Interior Department resorted to the courts only after it had exhausted efforts to resolve the problem amicably. Having this thing fought out in the media spotlight can only benefit the city, since city boosters can put a David vs. Goliath spin on the confrontation and the federal government can be made to look like a bully.