New Hampshire has recently become one of a number of states thinking about offering corporate sponsorships for their state parks. At a time when budgets everywhere are so tight that even the most vital services are threatened, it’s not surprising that they would be looking around for new sources of revenue.

New Hampshire has been unique in that in recent years no public money has gone into their state park system. The legislature mandated that it survive strictly on user-fee revenues. Not surprisingly, they’ve racked up an $18 million deficit. It was idiotic to assume park areas could operate on any kind of break-even basis. The user fees would have to be astronomical, and no one would go. They’d still have a deficit.

For a time, the state toyed with an equally stupid idea – sell off some of their park properties. In other words, get rid of the things that make the state most attractive. Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed and (I think) that notion was scrapped.

A recent article in the Nashua Telegraph reports that there are discussions with Peterboro-based Eastern Mountain Sports to enter into some kind of sponsorship agreement. It’s just in the talking stages, so there are no details as such – like how much the company would pay, and what they would expect in return.

This is where it gets sticky. EMS is a great outdoor recreation company. It fits in perfectly.

But what about some other company? Would we want to drive through the golden arches to get to our favorite beach? Or how about driving through the parking lot of our favorite big-box discount retailer to get to Mount Monadnock?

I don’t think so.

California has an interesting program. They’ve issued guidelines for companies they would consider for sponsorship of one of their state parks. They need to be good corporate citizens, sensitive to issues of the environment, cultural awareness, and diversity, among other things.

I like that, and I think other states could look into the idea, as long as there are clear guidelines as to whose money would be accepted.

The links I’ve provided are worth reading.