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Shop OV Spotlight: Western National Parks Store

Inside the Western National Parks store with woman at cashier desk and man ringing up her order with books on shelf in foreground

The Western National Parks Store is a window to the Southwest.

Right in Oro Valley, guests can nourish their souls with Native American jewelry, rugs, basketry and pottery. For the palate, Mexican chocolate, prickly pear candies and tepary beans. For the imagination, endless books about the great American West, calendars capturing its most beautiful sights, and trail guides to wander about them. There’s plenty for kids, too.

January 3, 2017

"And your purchase supports the parks," said Jo Alenson, marketing and communications director at Western National Parks Association, which operates the National Parks Store as well as installations at 71 parks partners in the West. "It’s retail with a purpose," said Caroline Lochner, outreach and development coordinator. There’s no sales tax, and because WNPA works directly with artists, pricing is affordable. 

The National Parks Store is tucked between Roche Tissue Diagnostics and Icagen, along Innovation Park Drive in Oro Valley. "People do find us," Alenson said. When they do, they're grateful for what lies within. As is the Park Service. "We help keep the small parks going, in some cases," Lochner said.

"The Park Service does not have the resources it needs, and they can’t fund-raise," said Amy Reichgott, development manager for WNPA. "This organization fills the gap" between "what parks want to provide their visitors, and what they can afford to provide their visitors."

As an example, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument in remote southwest New Mexico has 2 park rangers and a budget near $100,000 a year. At Gila Cliff Dwellings, WNPA operates a book store and shop, and employs a store manager who is effectively an extension of the Park Service, informing and guiding guests while leading volunteers. "It’s all about the park visitor, making their visit memorable, informing, making it as rich an experience as they can have," Lochner said.

Beyond that help, sales from the Gila Visitor Center Bookstore generate money to help sustain the site.

In Oro Valley, The National Parks Store has 4 employees and 30 "very loyal volunteers." Membership at WNPA is $45 a year. The WNPA home base encompasses more than 16,000 square feet. That space includes rooms for its extensive programming, offered twice weekly and free to the public. Visitors enjoy films, lectures, demonstrations and trunk shows of Mexican and Native American arts.

WNPA wants to help the National Park Service engage the next generations of park visitors, getting young, diverse people into the parks to make sure "they’re relevant to the next generation." For example, WNPA just opened its first urban store, in Los Angeles.

The parks "are for all of us," Lochner said, and you can discover them at The National Parks Store.

The Western National Parks Store
Western National Parks Association
12880 N. Vistoso Village Drive
Oro Valley, Az., 85755
10 a.m.-5 p.m. every day.

By: Dave Perry, President/CEO Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce