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Environment and Outdoors

'The Verizon Jordan Pond House at Acadia National Park': Soon to be a Reality?

A proposal by the National Park Service to change its rules concerning naming rights in the parks is drawing fire from lawmakers – including members of Maine’s Congressional delegation.

Think of a big sign at the beginning of one of the carriage roads at Acadia proclaiming: “You are about to bike on the Coca Cola Carriage Road.” Or when you go to Jordan Pond at the park to grab a sandwich you see a sign that reads: “You are at the Verizon Jordan Pond House.” Far fetched? Many lawmakers don’t think so.

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree said, “They say they are just going to keep it to some minor features but it just feels like one of these things that could be a slippery slope.”

Senator Susan Collins agrees. She says all national parks are places people go to get away from everyday life and everyday commercial pressures. She worries limited naming rights for say a park welcome center will become broader as the parks seek to address an $11 billion backlog in needed maintenance and repairs.

“Is it going to be named after some rich benefactor from now on or is it going to be named after a beer company,” says Collins. “I just think the commercialization of our parks is something we need to guard against.”

Senator Angus King says the reason the Park Service is seeking new ways to raise money is because Congress has not done its job in providing adequate funding to maintain the parks. He says there are not enough operating funds, let alone enough to start to address the back log of needed repairs.

“The Park service is facing the reality of stagnant congressional appropriations and expanding use of the parks and demand for the services of the parks,” says King. “So, I think we’ve got to look at it. It really is a question of how far does it go. If you start naming geographic places, I think that is clearly across the line.”

Second District Congressman Bruce Poliquin was not available for an interview, but in a statement said he wants to make sure Acadia and all national parks are preserved for future generations. He says he needs to thoroughly review the proposal, and any legislation that may be introduced, to assess its impact on the state. But Congresswoman Pingree says it just sounds like a bad idea to her.

“The idea of naming rights, I don’t like them generally and it seems even worse at our national parks. Try to imagine ‘the Verizon Jordan Pond House at Acadia National Park’,” says Pingree. “It just, it wouldn’t sit well with people and I don’t think it’s the right way to go to get funding.”

The expanded opportunities for naming rights are in rules put forth by the National Park Service that will take effect at the end of the year, unless Congress intervenes. Several lawmakers are considering introducing legislation to stop the most egregious provisions in the policy, but in an election year, that legislation may not be considered until after the elections in November.