Washington State Begins to Explore Private Sponsorship of Parks

Published January 1, 2007

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission is considering a draft proposal that would permit limited private “sponsorship” of state parks. The commission is currently gathering comments from stakeholders and hopes to have a finalized proposal available for consideration early next year.

According to the draft, “A sponsorship is a commercial relationship in which the Commission and the external entity exchange goods, services, or funds for public recognition or other consideration. ‘Sponsorship’ includes the right of an external entity to associate its name, products, or services with the Commission’s name, programs, services, or facilities.”

Agency Seeks Sponsors

The Seattle Times noted in a September 15 article, “The agency already has begun advertising for potential sponsors. ‘Join the fun when Seattle’s active urbanites go play in the great outdoors!’ reads an ad the parks agency recently ran in a trade magazine for the sponsorship industry.”

Along with various dollar limit restrictions for sponsors, the draft proposal prohibits sponsorship by organizations primarily engaged in any of the following activities or products:

  • “Promotion of the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages, or promotion of establishments that are licensed to sell and primarily do sell alcoholic beverages, including bars; excepting establishments at which the sale of alcohol is incidental to providing food service or lodging;
  • “Promotion of the sale or consumption of tobacco products;
  • “Promotion of the sale of birth control products or services;
  • “Commentary, advocacy, or promotion of political issues or candidates;
  • “Depiction in any form of profanity or obscenity, or promotion of sexually oriented products, activities, or materials;
  • “Promotion of the sale or use of firearms, explosives, or other weapons, or glorification of violent acts;
  • “Promotion or depiction of illegal products, or glorification of illegal products, activities, or materials; and
  • “Promotion by sponsors that discriminate or are in any other way inconsistent with federal, state or local laws, or with the policies of the Commission.”

“It is encouraging to see the commission exploring ways to partner with the private sector,” said Amber Gunn, policy analyst for the Evergreen Freedom Foundation’s Economic Policy Center. “Hopefully other areas of government will learn from this example and consider additional competitive contracting and private sponsorship opportunities.”

Jason Mercier ([email protected]) is senior budget analyst at the Evergreen Freedom Foundation.