HIGHTOWER: Corporatizing Our Public Parks

Every state has its official song, official state bird, and maybe even its official state insect -- but, now, Texas has something more: its official SUV!

Yes, the Chevrolet Suburban has bought its way into officialdom, becoming "the official vehicle of Texas State Parks." Apparently, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is oblivious to the irony of a massive, polluting SUV being the mascot of our states' natural wonders -- but there it is. This is a part of the overall corporatizing of public parks, not only in Texas but all across the country, as park officials seek to jack up their revenues by commercializing the public domain.

Well, surely Texas got its money's worth, right -- several millions of dollars, or at least a fleet of Chevies for this vast state's park system? Hardly. According to the Austin American-Statesman, all we got were two Surburbans, $230,000 for a couple of park projects, and some Chevy ads in the park agency's magazine. In return, General Motors gets to promote its Surburban as the vehicle of choice of our parks, use the agency's official logo in its ads, and display its big honking SUV at various park events.

Among other corporatizers of the Parks and Wildlife Department are Budweiser, Dow Chemical, and Copenhagen snuff. But the department's chief has rushed out to say that he's drawn a line on any inappropriate or tasteless connection between parks and products: "We've said that we would not have the Budweiser Big Bend State Park," he assures us. Now that's a mighty loose loop around tasteless.

This is Jim Hightower saying...Park officials whine that they have to sell-off these hucksterism rights because there's no tax money to fund the system adequately. Hogwash. Cut some of the millions in corporate welfare our state doles out each year, and put it where it'll serve the common good. Parks are for the people...not advertisers.

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