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Fresh Air And Food Trucks? National Parks Exploring Expanded Commercial Options

An image of a boat in the middle of a beautiful, blue alpine lake in Glacier National Park.
National Park Service
Glacier Park Boat Company, Inc. is the approved concessioner for interpretive boat tours in Glacier National Park.

The Department of Interior is proposing a rule change that could open the door for more private companies to operate within national parks.

The proposed change would make it easier for the Park Service to expand commercial services inside parks. Think WiFi towers or food trucks.

“The NPS recognizes that the needs for commercial visitor services in parks may change over time, including the need to provide new services that are not currently provided. Recent examples include wireless connectivity services at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, parking management at Muir Woods National Monument and bike rentals at Grand Canyon National Park,” the proposed rule document states.

The Interior Department said it’s a move to modernize the park experience and could lead to better services. But, Jayson O’Neill with the conservation nonprofit Western Values Project believes the move could lead to higher park fees and less fulfilling visits.

“You’re not going to have that natural experience. You aren’t going to potentially see that wildlife that you might have before, because now we are sort of overrun with food trucks and pins and whistles and these other things,” O’Neill said.

According to the National Park Service, there are currently more than 500 commercial concessioners operating inside parks already, which brings in $135 million worth of franchise fees every year.

The public can submit comments on the proposed changes through mid-September.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Noah Glick is a former content director and host at KUNR Public Radio.
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