Did you know that Southern Idaho has national parks?
Neither did I.
An ad from the Southern Idaho Tourism office recently appeared on a webpage I was reading. “Pull off the road and explore Southern Idaho’s four stunning national parks and monuments,” it said. Clicking through to the office’s website, I was asked, “Ready to cross these four national parks and monuments off your bucket list?”
Talk about a compelling pitch.
Only problem is, it’s not true. There are no national parks anywhere in Idaho (but for a small spillover sliver of Yellowstone).
The marketing campaign raises several problems. First, misrepresentation is not a good thing. Second, luring people to national parks that don’t exist ensures tourists who fall for the ruse will feel duped, and once word gets out about the bait-and-switch, Idaho’s tourism marketing will be seen as dishonest.
Third, the marketing ploy is cynical. In a state where elected officials spend considerable effort trying to eliminate federal land protections, national parks are OK because they’re a sure bet for bringing in dollars. In fact, some tourism officials find national parks so compelling they make them up out of thin air.
John Kelley, Sun Valley