Skyline Drive Closures and Drones for Corporate Parks Donor
Approval for Subaru Ad Shoot Hand-Carried through National Park Headquarters
Washington, DC — A major corporate donor was permitted to close portions of Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive and fly drones in the park to shoot a commercial, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The request for filming and drone access was approved by the National Park Service in just one day after coordinating with fundraising efforts for this year’s NPS Centennial.
During a two-day period starting on October 20, 2015, Subaru had park law enforcement rangers stop traffic on Shenandoah’s iconic Skyline Drive at different 13 locations for periods up to 30 minutes to film a television commercial. In addition, the NPS waived its prohibition against use of drones in the park system to accommodate the ad shoot of park vistas and road stretches emptied except for Subaru vehicles.
Subaru is a major financial contributor to the NPS’ fundraising arm which describes the Japanese carmaker as “the sole automotive partner of the National Park Service’s Centennial.” It comes against the backdrop of a current NPS plan to increase fundraising through co-branding, licensing, logo displays and other corporate “partnerships” to finance ongoing park expenses and operations.
“Closing public access to national park facilities to give corporate donors exclusive access is not part of America’s best idea,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch who is leading the charge against the new NPS fundraising plan. “If the Park Service is granting these sorts of corporate favors even before relaxing its fundraising restrictions, Katy bar the door because the line between national parks and the soundstages of Universal Studios will become increasingly hard to find.”
In its October 19 request for approval to issue a Special Use Permit, Shenandoah officials conceded that “commercial filming with a drone could be potentially controversial by seeming to set a precedent” but argued Subaru’s “centennial partnership relationship and the focus on the Find Your Park campaign warrant special consideration.”
Both drone access and closure of park facilities for commercial activities are against NPS policy. Yet, headquarters and regional officials approved the request in just one day, with paperwork being hand-carried to expedite the process so to enable filming to begin on the company’s requested schedule.
“This episode illustrates how corporate donations can affect the way parks operate and for whose benefit,” added Ruch, noting that under the NPS plan every park superintendent would be charged with generating new corporate donation “partnerships” and would be evaluated for retention and promotion on their fundraising success. “This is not philanthropy; it is merchandising. These corporate tie-ins give new meaning to panhandling in the park.”
The NPS fundraising plan would encourage many more of these Subaru-type corporate tie-ins while repealing the current ban on commercialism inside parks. In order to significantly expand corporate financial support, every park would be required to offer donor recognition packages under arrangements in which the “needs of the donors” would serve as the guiding principle.