Does Starbucks Belong in Yosemite?

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When most people visit one of America’s beautiful national parks, images of nature, wildlife, hiking trails and granola come to mind. Peace, tranquility and meditation are the order of the day — things that are becoming less common in a country that is inundated with social media, smartphones and corporate branding. But, in the very near future, it’s possible that these two worlds will collide — or at least that’s what thousands of concerned citizens believe.

Thousands Sign Petition to Stop Starbucks from Opening

According to reports, a Starbucks could soon be coming to Yosemite National Park. The park’s concessionaire, Yosemite Hospitality (a division of Aramark), is working with the global coffee chain to begin selling Starbucks coffee in the food court at Yosemite Valley Lodge.

According to Lisa Cesaro, marketing manager of Yosemite Hospitality, the new Starbucks is intended to be part of a larger renovation project of the food court, which will be renamed Basecamp Eatery. The space is slated to open this spring and serve soups, sandwiches, salads and, you guessed it, coffee.

“We are trying to enhance the visitor experience,” Cesaro recently said. “And this is just one of the many improvements we will be making in coming years.”

Or is it? As news of the park’s plans has spread online, there’s been considerable resistance from the public. A petition launched by a concerned citizen to stop Starbucks in Yosemite has already garnered more than 22,000 signatures (a number that’s growing by the hour).

“Multinational corporations have no place in our National Parks. The opening of a Starbucks in Yosemite Valley opens the door to further undue development,” the petition reads. “The Park will lose its essence, making it hardly distinguishable from a chaotic and bustling commercial city.”

Some people are worried that a Starbucks at Yosemite National Park doesn’t belong. Photo: Adobe Stock

The author of the petition isn’t alone in these sentiments. People all over the country — and the world, for that matter — are concerned about the sort of example this will set for future decisions in Yosemite, as well as other national parks around the nation.

“I worry that this will set a precedent that will allow the concessionaire to essentially rent out spaces to other major corporations,” says Freddy Brewster, who lives in the area. “If this is approved, I am concerned that it could lead to a grocery store sponsored by Walmart or a mountain shop that will turn into a satellite REI. This could start a trend that has already seen the introduction of corporate sponsors like Budweiser, REI and Subaru for the NPS.”

What Are the Possible Solutions?

Clearly, there’s desperation coming from many concerned citizens, but it’s also helpful to think about things from another perspective. While throwing a Starbucks into the middle of a national park might sound egregious at face value, that’s only half the story.

After the petition to stop Starbucks gained notoriety online, Aramark released a statement in which they clarified some details. For starters, they want to make sure people understand that Starbucks will be occupying an existing space. No new standalone structure will be created as a result of the renovation. Vendors have served food and drink in this same space for years — the only difference would be that Starbucks would provide the coffee.

While there’s clearly animosity toward Starbucks because of the fact that it represents “Corporate America,” Aramark says Starbucks has “a long track record of and deep commitment to social and environmental impact, which we believe will benefit Yosemite National Park.”

Vernal Fall in Yosemite National Park. Photo: Adobe Stock

While it’s possible that the Starbucks plan has already been tabled for good — online job listings were recently removed — there’s actually a case to be made that Starbucks could be better than the alternative.

One proposed solution is to require Starbucks to recycle and/or compost everything at the site. There’s still progress to be made in this area, but it could be done and could serve as an example for all other stores. Another good idea would be for Starbucks to donate a portion of its profits from the store to natural park conservation funds.

What solutions would you suggest? Let us know in the comments below.

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Jenna Cyprus

Jenna is a freelance writer and business consultant who covers business, technology and entrepreneurship. She's lectured for several universities and worked with more than 100 businesses over the course of the past 15 years. She's a mother of two kids, and loves to go camping, hiking and skiing with her family.

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