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There Won’t be Any “Hot Springs National Park Massage Parlor” on Ken Salazar’s Watch


Hot Springs, Arkansas. NPS photo.

The National Park Service has long complained that the city of Hot Springs, Arkansas 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 Park Service wants the city to stop advertising itself as Hot Springs National Park. The city disagrees that its advertising tactics are confusing, and insists that the Park Service is being too touchy on this issue.

Things heated up earlier this year. In May, the Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission lost its appeal of a court order and grudgingly took down a "Hot Springs National Park" city flag that had been flying at Hot Springs Mountain Tower. 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.

The Park Service complaint has ended up in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which is currently reviewing whether the city’s use of “Hot Springs National Park” in its logo is a trademark violation. City officials are nervous, fearing that an adverse ruling might seriously damage the city’s tourism industry and cause a loss of jobs and tax revenues at a particularly critical time. Like other cities throughout America, Hot Springs has suffered in the current economic recession.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar visited Hot Springs on Thursday to discuss the issue with shareholders and consider what might be done to find a solution that everyone can live with. Speaking to local residents and reporters, Salazar said he’s confident that a reasonable compromise can be reached, provided that the National Park brand is protected. He pointed out by way of example that nobody would want to see a “Hot Springs National Park massage parlor.”

Salazar stressed the importance of working out a solution that respects the city’s long-standing relationship with the national park and minimizes negative impacts on its tourism industry.


Thanks for the feedback, d-2. The examples of partnerships and cooperative stewardship that you've cited show that confrontation should be the last resort, not the tactic of choice. The Hot Springs brouhaha is a no-win game for the Park Service. Let's hope it gets settled soon so it can get out from under the media spotlight. I share your feeling that Jarvis will make a difference.

Another park where the dividing line between Park and City is indistinct is Lowell National Historical Park and the City of Lowell.

They have a great cooperative relationship, each really valuing the other, each helping the other out where the one has capacity the other lacks.

This is the nature of such a park. Same thing should be, at Hot Springs. Professional park management needs to understand the distinctive nature and legislative history of the specific park, and not always try to impose a 'one size fits all' approach to everything.

At the Franklin Roosevelt home in Hyde Park New York, generations of national park superintendents and Presidential Librarians fought out just such macho nonsense over who is the real leader, who's rules should apply.

At Jamestown, VA, there are 3 landowners, a state park, a national park, a non-profit. There have been recent (sometimes successful efforts) to make things right, but there has been too much poison over the years about who is the REAL Jamestown. But ya know what?? The public largely pays no attention to bureaucratic boundary distinctions. When they go to Jamestown and Williamsburg, to the vast majority of the visiting public, it is ONE experience of an important place. Same thing at Lowell. Same thing at Hyde Park. True, everybody knows West Yellowstone is outside the park. But under any circumstances, it is smart for all parties to figure out a way to work together, and focus on the visitor and the resource, not their administrative perogatives.

Yes, it is critical that national parks protect their lands, and follow the exacting laws requiring non-impairment. But that is not the issue here. It is about the "what if" paranoia that the reputation of the national park, or the city, will be undermined by the bad behavior of the other. It is usually -- not always -- a far fetched concern.

I know this superintendent, and she is not a bad person. She IS inclined to listen too hard to central office bureaucrats, and it would do all parties -- THE CITY JUST AS MUCH AS THE PARK -- to consider what really matters, to consider that the success of the other is essential to its own success, and figure out a way to work together.

My expectation is that the new director, Jonathan Jarvis, understands what does and does not matter in these things, and understands you must make an effort to work together, rather than find needless points of combat.

What is it exactly that the city should knock off? The city has done nothing wrong. The Hot Springs Advertising and Promotions Commission did things right. They have a letter dated 8/7/02 from the former Superintendant Giddings giving permission to use the words National Park in the logo. Bernard Fagan, Chief of the NPS Office of Policy, was deposed recently and acknowledged that he does not know of any policy of the NPS requiring a written license agreement with any vendor who wants to use a mark that incorporates the words "national park". So tell me why after 7 years all of the sudden the city is in the wrong?

Without the dollars that the Hot Springs A&P Commission spend on advertising, our sleepy little town would be dead...instead it is thriving. Bringing not only transient visitors to town but also convention goers. It is a win/win for the park and for the city to allow the logo to remain as is.

This is ridiculous. The City of Hot Springs needs to play by the rules. The National Park Service needs to play by the rules. If one or the other doesn't, they should have to deal with the consequences. What if West Yellowstone, MT went around calling itself West Yellowstone National Park, Montana?

I used to work in a park with a similar problem. The nearby chamber of commerce visitor center called itself the "Blah Blah National Park Visitor Center" and it greatly confused visitors, especially when the chamber gave out downright false information and often dangerous advice (eg, 'even if the gate is locked, just drive around it..if you're truck is stuck, the park will come pull you out).

If the city doesn't knock it off, the Park Service should hold them to the fire and make an example out of them.

Hot Springs National Park actually has a second Bathhouse in operation. The Quapaw was recently renovated and is operated under a private lease. A third, the Fordyce Bathhouse is NPS run museum/visitors center.

The visit by Secretary Salazar was disappointing to say the least. We (the majority of Hot Springs residents) had hoped for a more productive visit. It is so unfortunate that the relationship between the city and park has become so contentious in just the past 5 years. It is our hope that Superintendent Fernandez finds herself promoted to a new park ...

This comment was edited to remove a gratuitous remark. Ed.

You can still get a massage at several resort lodges within NPS units, like Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort at Olympic National Park. Is it a massage parlor? Hardly so. However - they do list rates for massages.

Still - I been part of online discussions of what should be designated a National Park today. One very strong theme was that Hot Springs National Park wouldn't likely to receive a "National Park" designation if it were to be considered today. The gist seems to be that it was declared a National Park at a time when nobody was really sure what should or shouldn't be declared a National Park.

Still - I understand the concern that the NPS has. It seems that the city is blurring the line between what is Hot Springs NP and the city. Anyone walking in West Yellowstone, MT is acutely aware that it's not NPS land. The visitor to the city of Hot Springs may not be so aware.

Well, Anonymous Robert, other than some sly word-play here and there, I don't see anything 'written' here by Bob Janiskee that besmirches Massage. Unless you are talking about his quote of our Secretary of the Interior from Colorado. Who knows? Maybe in Colorado 'Massage Parlor' remains a euphemism, or has at least a double meaning? Nothing against Colorado, of course, just guys who never take off their hat.

And Bob Janiskee, since you are the King of Naming & Classification for National Parks, this very early national park at Hot Springs is one of the best examples of the limits of rigorous logic or jesuitical precision to the language of national parklands.

The town and the park have always been rolled together. The somewhat bizarre effort of the current superintendent to create a distinction is surely inconsistent with the history of the town and park, whatever it says in the Management Policies or CFR. When the distinguished Senator Dale Bumpers as one of his legacy efforts at the end of his career in Congress (performed about the same time he served as chief counsel for the defence of W.J. Clinton before the Senate impeachment trial) was to try to put the park up to a higher level, after years of neglect and want. Does any one in the NPS doubt that the main reason that happened is Bumper's concern for the town? You'd think a smart superintendent would wrap her park's future around the town.

The rank-and-file-Yosemite-mafia-type-Ranger of course has always been uncomfortable with Hot Springs, because it is really so different from the purple-mountain's-majesty-type national park, or the Basin and Range ideal. But because it is a throwback to an earlier era, and is one of the very earliest national parks in the United States, most of these guys don't know whether to attack it or support it. It is a perfect topic for Bob Janiskee's List of Anomalies. Truth is, it is the American take on the Victorian or 19th Century European 'pleasuring ground,' in the original concept of 'recreation.'

I mean, where would 'The Last Year at Marienbad' be without the spa? Or all the other famous European or English resorts? You didn't just go for the scenery and the hiking.

Although we have people today who see any resort in a national park - even the one at Yellowstone - as an intrusion, there was a time when the relationship between the place and the resort was inextricable. Like, at Hot Springs.

Even a cowboy from Colorado in a cowboy hat will have a hard time extracating this one. I suggest, we need fewer lawyers involved, and a few more people with a sense of the cultural history of recreation. And a superintendent with a sense of humor.

As someone who grew up in the shadows of Naval Training Center and Marine Corps Recruit Depot, and is now married to a licensed, certified, massage therapist (life is good!), I thought that the operative term was "parlor". Therapeutic massage at spas, day spas, salons, resorts, athletic clubs, medical centers, etc., is a wonderful treatment, especially welcome after a couple days of fieldwork. At least in California, Virginia, and Colorado, even massage therapists consider massage parlors to be sleazy, and don't call their places of business massage parlors. Even the massage chains don't call themselves parlors. Robert, is that different where you live & work?

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