When Starbucks moved to Yosemite National Park, more than 25,000 people signed a petition against the coffee giant setting up camp and 80 percent of SNEWS readers opposed it. Petitioners said multinational corporations and amenities would rob the natural place of its essence. But Starbucks moved in anyway. And now, opponents have begun to speak up about an Interior Department committee's recommendation that the National Park Service privatize parks, introduce WiFi and food trucks, and limit senior benefits.
In a two-page memo published last month, the subcommittee on Recreation Enhancement Through Reorganization wrote that campgrounds are an "underperforming asset" because the current infrastructure is inadequate and outdated, and doesn't meet the needs of today's "contemporary" tent and RV campers. (Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke also called for the privatization of campgrounds during his tenure and created the panel that shared ideas.)
"Data on campgrounds is not centralized and is of varying quality, but evidence suggests that occupancy rates at many campgrounds could grow and additional services, from WIFI to utilities, equipment rentals and camp stores, food and extended family sites are desired and would substantially boost net agency revenues, especially when operational costs are transferred to private sector partners," the committee wrote. "As a serendipity, private sector operation of the campgrounds would generate a dramatic increase in NPS awareness of visitor characteristics and satisfaction."
Recommendations include creating a centralized library of information as well as allowing food trucks and mobile camp stores in specialized zones. The committee also recommends implementing senior fee blackout periods during peak seasons and restricting their discount to certain areas.
While the proposal is nothing more than that so far, should the Interior agree, the idea could pilot at five to 10 campgrounds.
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