There are a lot of changes going on in our National Parks these days. Whether it’s hiking fees way up or shrinking the size of National Monuments, it feels like there’s been a lot of news about parks. The latest development? It looks like a concessioner has the go-ahead to open a Starbucks inside Yosemite National Park. It wasn’t long before “a Concerned Citizen” launched a change.org petition in protest, and it’s garnered 19,000 signatures so far.
Many of those who are signing the petition are listing their own reasons why, and it seems like keeping the Starbucks from opening in the park is uniting Republicans (who think Starbucks is too liberal and just want to piss them off) and Democrats (who want to keep corporate interests out of parks) alike.
Currently, chains in National Parks aren’t really a thing (although it’s not unheard of for a snack bar in a park to sell a brand of coffee, that’s kind of the equivalent of choosing to sell Coke or Pepsi). Some eateries in parks are mom-and-pop joints, while most are run by concessioners, big companies that win contracts to provide the food in various parks.
Though menus are kept intentionally basic and non-offensive, a lot of thought goes into them. That’s why you’ll find things like buffalo burgers at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, fry bread tacos at Mesa Verde, and trout in Yellowstone. People want their food to enhance their experience. In 2015, Eater wrote a great article about the concessioners in National Parks that even talks about the short-lived Mexican buffet that Yellowstone once had. People are more excited by eating venison than a burrito when they’re just back from a drive around the Lamar Valley.
The point is, food can play an important role in how people visit and view National Parks. The reason National Parks were formed was to protect the natural wonders from being exploited. Sure, one Starbucks isn’t going to ruin the park, but it’s definitely a dangerous precedent to set. It’s like why many National Parks lodges have limited wifi and no TVs in the rooms. The experience of visiting a National Park is special, and shouldn’t be marred by getting pissed that the “high-speed internet” is actually kind of crappy, or by being irritated by the fact that they don’t have the one obscure TV channel you want to watch, or by getting annoyed that they have a KFC when you prefer Popeye’s.
Plus, it’s not like you can’t stop at one of the many Starbucks locations right outside the park on your way in.
More National Parks realness…