Major Corporations Amp Up Efforts to Protect Local State Parks

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Reforest California successfully raised the funds needed to replant trees in San Diego's Cuyamaca Rancho state park, which was barren and scarred from wildfires. Photo: Flickr/slworking2

State parks have long served as a recreation spot for families, and it is hard to imagine a community without some kind of natural preserve to counterbalance expanding urbanization.

However, with the recession still in effect, state parks are feeling the brunt of government cutbacks and a poor economy.

Several heroes have emerged in the process, and surprisingly, they are some of the biggest corporations in the world today.

Coca-Cola and Stater Bros. Supermarkets, for instance, have focused their international success on helping causes that are largely local and in small communities.

Last year, the two corporations raised $600,000 for Reforest California and hope to accumulate the same amount of money for Care For Our Coast, a program that seeks to protect state park beaches.

“We have a responsibility to our customers and consumers to create and support cause marketing programs, which have an impact on our communities,” says Terence Fitch, vice president and general manager of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Southern California.

“Our business works best when our consumers feel that Coke is a company that gives back to causes they care about. This is a new way of doing business for us, not just doing the right thing, but communicating with our customers and consumers that we are doing the right thing,” he adds.

Though some may question the need for private sector funds to support public land, the organization of America’s State Parks, an alliance devoted to promoting relationships between corporations and park agencies, proves that such partnerships are critical to the survival of these state-owned lands.

“State parks couldn’t implement programs without private support because their budgets have been hit so hard,” explains Abigail Green, DASANI senior brand manager at Coca-Cola. “Private businesses can bridge the gap to enhance visitor experiences at state parks around the country.”

As a result of Coca-Cola and Stater Bros. Supermarkets’ endeavors, Reforest California successfully raised the funds needed to replant 1 million trees in parks that would otherwise remain barren and scarred from wildfires. The majority of the money is going to Cuyamaca Rancho state park, San Diego’s sole conifer forest, which has only recently began planting the trees.

DASANI, too, has created the 30 Days/30 Ways Challenge in an effort to encourage more communities across the nation to recycle. During the spring and summer, new recycling bins will be added to Candlestick Point and Angel Island State Parks in San Francisco, while the state of Washington has been provided funds to pay for more recycling bins in Seattle.

The Oregon State Fair’s Green Team, an organization responsible for instituting cleaning and recycling measures at the fair to take place in August 2010, has also benefited from DASANI’s work.

“The DASANI team is enthusiastic to help keep state parks green by encouraging consumers to make small lifestyle changes that positively impact us all,” Green says. “We hope the 30 Days/30 Ways Challenge provokes active participation in recycling. For example, knowing that recycling just one aluminum can save enough energy to power a computer for three hours is concrete imagery that we feel can increase advocacy.”

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