Corporate sponsors could save parksFor several years now...

LETTERS

July 26, 1996

Corporate sponsors could save parks

For several years now, friends and supporters of the National Park System have been told by members of Congress and park officials that Americans have been ''loving the parks to death.''

New ways, we were told, had to be found to fund the National Park System if it was to continue.

At the same time, the Republican-led Congress has been cutting off budget support for park improvements and threatening to sell off less important parks.

The Sun (July 7) reported the favorable progress of Senate Bill 1703, which would allow the parks to keep more of the money that they earn for park maintenance but it would also allow major corporations to ''sponsor'' a park or historic site.

Roger Kennedy, the current director of the National Park Service, said he would support it if certain loopholes were closed.

This is a far cry from his earlier stance on similar bills and it is likely that Kennedy, being the astute politician that he is, realizes this arrangement might very well be the best deal he will get from the current Congress -- and a good deal it could well prove to be.

The bill would allow the existing National Park Foundation to expand its role to attract corporate sponsors, who would provide funds to help support parks and historic sites.

In return, the sponsors would receive the right, under strict guidelines, to be identified as supporters of a park or site.

Such an approach has the potential to improve access and ensure that endangered sites, like the USS Constellation and Yellowstone National Park, receive the funds necessary to continue operations.

Opponents of the bill claim that corporate sponsorship of parks might lead to abuse and to mixed-messages about the relationship of the sponsor and the park; for instance, what if a major paper products manufacturer sponsors a nature preserve?

Such an arrangement could happen but the bill clearly anticipates this and allows park rangers the freedom to explain the relationship and forbids corporate sponsors from using the park solely as an advertisement for their product.

The real danger is not that ''corporate America'' is incapable of being a responsible citizen in regard to its support of national parks and historic sites but that Congress will use such support of parks as an excuse to further cut the operating budget of the National Park Service.

While I hope Maryland's representatives in Washington will support Senate Bill 1703, corporate sponsorship must not be allowed to become the sole source of operating funds for the park system.

Yes, there is the potential that by opening the door just a crack to corporate sponsors park visitors might soon see signs that say ''Fort McHenry -- brought to you by McDonald's.''

But without this type of support, the signs around the National Park System might instead simply read ''Closed."

Bill Sleeman

Baltimore

Why would dealers care about poison?

Drug dealers don't care about human life, so how can you expect them to deal honestly with the addicts whose lives they are destroying?

What type of person would mix poison with drugs and sell it on the streets then sit back and watch people get sick and die? The same type of person who sells drugs in the first place -- someone who doesn't give a damn about people's lives, family, neighborhoods or children -- nothing but the almighty dollar. It's sad, but that is exactly what a drug dealer is: someone who doesn't care.

Murphy Edward Smith

Baltimore

Best politicians money can buy

Gov. Parris Glendening claims to be ''shocked'' by the illicit largess of Pimlico/Laurel track owner Joe De Francis. Is it not unreasonable to assume that ''pleasantly surprised'' might have been his immediate response to the generosity shown at the fund-raiser at the Jacobs' residence in Silver Spring in late 1994?

The list of major recipients of funds from the gaming barons is a good indicator of how political contributions are invested in Maryland.

While your columnist Michael Olesker listed Ellen Sauerbrey with other recipients of funds from the De Francis-Jacobs cabal, the token donation of $250 to her campaign is insignificant compared with the healthy sums given to others on the list. The ratio of contributions indicates the candidate least-favored by the fixers and insiders.

For too many years a web of corruption has bound elements in both the Democratic and Republican parties in Maryland. The pattern of self-serving political collusion transcends regionalism and ideology. Whenever the one-party status quo is threatened, a convenient and cooperative Republican will be found to save the day. Is the ejection of Allan Levey from his position on the Maryland Racing Commission scapegoating or housecleaning?

It is obvious that only a greater degree of citizen participation will rescue Maryland from the venal leadership of some of the finest politicians money can buy.

Arthur M. Downs

Severna Park

Keep court clerks accountable to citizens

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