Donors acknowledgement in National Parks

Have you noticed that national parks don’t usually name things after people?

At the NC Arboretum
At the NC Arboretum

Many local parks may have a bench with a plaque which says “to the memory of”. In some places, the benches go on and on. Some are done very tastefully, as the stone marker at the North Carolina Arboretum.

But until recently, this was not the general practice in national parks. That is about to change.

The day after Christmas, while most of us weren’t looking, Congress passes the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2015. That’s the law that funds the government until the end of September. Those of us who registered this breathed a sigh of relief that we could go to national parks for a while longer.

But deep inside the bowels of this “defense bill”, there was Section 3054, National Park System Donor Acknowledgement, which authorized expanded donor acknowledgement practices within the NPS including areas covered under the Commemorative Works Act. What that means is that now parks can decide within broad guidelines how they can potentially acknowledge names of donors on vehicles and benches. I don’t think you’ll see the Coke trail or the Wal-Mart overlook, but who knows.

Donor's name at Death Valley
Donor’s name at Death Valley

At least one park has been doing this all along. When we went to Death Valley National Park, this sign had been planted at Zibrinsky Point. The donation acknowledgement was minimal but it was there.

What do you think? Will donor acknowledgement encourage more people to donate to their Friends group? Do people need to have their name up someplace to help their parks?

Development professionals have told me “yes, people respond to this.” Obviously, the National Park Service thinks so too.


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