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Steelhammer: Rebranding national parks

Last week, officials in Kanawha County wisely rebuffed a tentative offer by Walmart to buy a section of Coonskin Park for development as the retail giant's fourth superstore in the county.

The idea of having four massive box stores in the Charleston area operated by a company that pays chintzy wages and undercuts existing businesses is bad enough. Ceding a chunk of Coonskin Park for such a venture is unthinkable, although I can understand cash-strapped parks being tempted to tap into a willing revenue stream for fiscal sustenance.

Some park systems elsewhere in the nation have attempted a less-drastic approach to raising money by keeping their real estate and instead selling naming rights to their parks to corporate sponsors. So far, there hasn't been much success. For example, New York City's park system hoped to raise $13 million last year by selling the naming rights to dog runs, basketball courts and the like, but came up with less money than it takes to fill up an illegal 16-ounce soft drink cup.

But maybe parks would have better success if they targeted potential sponsors that were a good match for park names. For instance...

  •  Utah's Arches National Park teams up with McDonald's to present Golden Arches National Park.
  • The nation's top pest exterminator becomes the official corporate sponsor of Orkin's Death Valley National Park.
  • A park in North Carolina's Smoky Mountain highlands teams up with a popular discount tobacco chain to create Great Smoker Friendly Mountains National Park.
  • A mountain music-themed amusement park in Tennessee sponsors West Virginia's best-known remote area to create Dollywood Sods National Wilderness Area.
  • The nation's top supplier of flashlights and batteries teams up with a vast wetland park in Florida to sponsor Eveready Glades National Park.
  • For a substantial licensing fee and the development of a fishing reservoir, outdoor outfitting giant Pro Bass Shops is able to slightly alter the name of Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada to Great Bassin' National Park.
  • In an effort to boost name recognition, Liberty Tax Services acquires the naming rights to a popular New York City landmark, now known as Statue of Liberty Tax Services National Monument.
  • To keep his profile as high as possible as he enters his golden years as an action adventure hero, actor Bruce Willis buys the naming rights to West Virginia's highest peak, 4,862-foot Bruce Knob.


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