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Backpacker Magazine – November/December 2005

National Parks Inc.

Like it or not, national parks are officially in the business of business. Will this focus destroy the soul of a national institution--or save it in these lean times?

by: Eryn Brown

This summer, 30 business-plan consultants, as they're called, fanned out across the nation. Tim Capozzi, 27, and Dan Cohn, 28, headed to Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, a 125,000-acre park on the Tennessee-Kentucky border that attracts almost a million visitors per year. Both men are former management consultants turned grad students. Capozzi is earning law and public policy degrees at the University of California, Berkeley; Cohn is getting his MBA at the University of Denver. The two spent hours hunched over laptops, immersing themselves in an accounting program that tracked every dollar that came into Big South Fork and how it got used. As other young seasonals cleared trails, Capozzi and Cohn pondered how Big South Fork could pull in (and save) more money. They analyzed trail maintenance: How much would it cost to make paths safe again in the wake of a Southern pine beetle infestation? They studied archaeological digs: If we invest more to educate parkgoers, will we save on site preservation? They also wound up spending a lot of time convincing park staff they weren't the spawn of the devil. "We try to emphasize that we aren't just pencil pushers from Washington. This isn't Office Space," says Capozzi, referring to the 1999 Mike Judge movie satirizing corporate dronedom. "This is figuring out ways this park can do its mission better. This isn't about eliminating jobs, or any of that unsavory stuff."

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