Fight over water bottles in federal parks comes to San Francisco

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerA new campaign is targeting bottled water sales at Yosemite and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerA new campaign is targeting bottled water sales at Yosemite and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The sale of bottled water is banned in 14 national parks, and now two treasures in the cradle of the environmental movement are being asked to jump on board.

A coalition of environmentalists, businesses and nonprofit organizations is launching a campaign called Think Outside the Bottle in hopes of making the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Yosemite National Park the next federally owned open spaces to eliminate the sale of bottled water. The group is holding a public event at Crissy Field this morning, seeking support from the parks’ superintendents.

“The parks were created to preserve ecology,” said Michelle Myers, director of the San Francisco Bay chapter of the Sierra Club. “It should be their responsibility to serve as an example and take this step to protect the environment.”

Zion National Park in Utah eliminated plastic bottles with its ban in 2008 and plastic bottles accounted for 20 percent of Grand Canyon National Park’s waste stream in 2010.

GGNRA spokesman Howard Levitt said Superintendent Frank Dean met with members of the coalition and shares the desire to end the sale of bottled water at the park. But first, the park must complete studies.

National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis issued a policy directive in December 2011 requiring national parks to complete a “rigorous impact analysis” of the effects that eliminating bottle water sales would have on “visitor health and safety” after the Coca-Cola Co., the producer of Dasani bottled water that contributes as much as $13 million a year to the National Park Foundation, raised concerns about a Grand Canyon ban.   

To remove water bottles in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which includes sites in San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties, the agency must first determine the costs of installing new water-filling stations and the impact on concessionaire revenue. Once the assessment is completed, the superintendent must gain approval from his regional director.

But with federal cuts looming, Levitt said the process isn’t a slam-dunk.

“We don’t know if we’ll have the funds available to build new water stations,” he said.

Hans Florine, the Yosemite speed-climbing world record holder and an advocate for the ban, questioned the need for regulating the ban of bottled water.

“I climbed in Yosemite for years when there was no bottled water,” he said. “I vividly remember filling up my apple juice bottles and it wasn’t a burden. It’s befuddling.”

Despite the requirements, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu is optimistic the initiative will succeed.
“Fourteen national parks are now plastic-water-bottle-free; these issues have been addressed before,” he said.

David ChiuLocalNational Park ServicePaul Gackle

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