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America's increasingly popular national parks need an infusion of money to catch up on a backlog of repairs and infrastructure upgrades to allow the public access while still protecting the natural environment people flock to see.
What they don't need is Amazon deliveries to campgrounds, food trucks and Wi-Fi.
But that's just what a Trump administration advisory team is proposing. The team is made up mostly of appointees from the private sector -- some who work for companies that have contracts with the parks -- who appear bent on finding new ways for companies to exploit more profits from the national parks.
The Made in America Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee told the Los Angeles Times they are pushing for "modernization" of the parks. They are pushing the Interior Department to allow Amazon to make deliveries to park campgrounds, allow food trucks to come in and install Wi-Fi in the parks.
This comes as the administration wants to cut the National Park Service by 15% or $481 million. The service has said for years it has an $11 billion backlog of maintenance in parks.
Other than some very remote areas, most national parks already have cellphone service, allowing people to take photos and make calls, especially if there is an emergency. We can live without Wi-Fi in the parks. It would only mean more people watching a screen rather than enjoying the natural beauty of the parks.
And allowing Amazon to charge a premium price to deliver to park campgrounds? Come on.
National parks already have food service and people have been more than capable of bringing food with them when they visit the parks or camp in them.
This isn't the first time the administration has pushed to privatize parts or all of federal agencies, including the VA. There is nothing wrong with looking at ways to bring efficiencies and save money at federal agencies, including allowing the private sector to contract for some services. But the National Parks are a unique public system where the core mission is protecting natural landscapes while limiting the impacts from people who want to experience them. Exploiting them for more private financial gain is wrong.
Instead of slashing park budgets and opening the doors for corporate gains, Congress and the administration should be looking for ways to get more money to the park service aimed at upgrading roads, buildings and campgrounds.
-- Mankato (Minn.) Free Press