When the National Park Service's centennial rolls around in three years, will you be able to sidle up to the bar and order a Park Service-approved drink? That's one concern tied to the agency's decision to, in one case so far, waive its prohibition against fundraising campaigns involving alcholic beverages.
Earlier this year we reported on the agreement the National Park Foundation made with Adler Fells Winery to market a national park-branded collection of wines, with $2 of every sale going to the Foundation for its work in the parks.
As we noted at the time, this is just a trial balloon, as normally the Foundation doesn't get into deals involving alcoholic beverages, and it needed an exception to the norm to run this pilot fund-raiser.
However, in approving the exemption, Park Service officials seem to have cracked open the door a bit for more waivers when it comes to alcoholic beverage companies partnering with the parks.
In the waiver request (attached below), which was approved by Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, the assistant director for partnerships and civic engagement noted that the agreement with Adler Fells would "allow the National Park Service to evaluate how this type of program is received by the public, our partners, and employees; provide invaluable first-hand knowledge as we contemplate potential updates to Director's Order 21, and; demonstrate our willingness to reconsider the prohibition based on the success of partnerships with wine, beer, and spirits companies that are increasingly common for organizations from The Arbor Day Foundation, to the Alzheimer's Association, to Project Red, to charities benefitting wounded warriers."
Questioning this decision is Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which obtained the waiver document via a Freedom of Information requestion.
"The deal would run through the 2016 NPS Centennial. So, we might soon see such sumptuous offerings as Death Valley Pinot, Petrified Forest Port, Everglades Zin and Dry Tortugas Chardonnay," he told the Traveler. "Part of the offered rationale for this waiver is to allow NPS to explore 'partnerships with wine, beer and spirits companies.' Future promiscuous corporate partnering may have us on the lookout for Big Bend Lager, Voyageurs Vodka, Great Smoky Mountain Bourbon.
"These products would surely liven up any park visitor center and make nature walks a bit more, shall we say, exploratory," said Mr. Ruch. "This also suggests that the (Park Service) Centennial will be an unprecedented corporate partnership-palooza."
The move down this road is an interesting contrast to the decision made earlier this year by Mammoth Cave National Park officials to end the sale of beer and wine at the Caver's Campstore in the park because of "a dramatic increase in alcohol-related law enforcement incidents."
Traveler footnote: How successful the arrangement with Adler Fells has been to date is uncertain. Foundation officials couldn't immediately say Wednesday how much they've realized from the deal.