If they proceed as announced, the shocking name changes at Yosemite will go down in history as among the more nefarious and craven examples of corporate greed in America.
On Thursday, park officials announced the decision as part of an ongoing legal fight with outgoing concessionaire Delaware North over who owns the rights to the names of famous landmarks such as the Ahwahnee Hotel, Curry Village and Badger Pass Ski Area.
With new concessionaire Aramark set to take over operations March 1, the park service chose to move ahead with a switch that would obliterate a legacy that dates to the earliest days of the park, which was established in 1890.
Instead of the memorable “Ahwahnee,” we will get the eminently forgettable “Majestic Yosemite Hotel.”
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“Curry Village” becomes “Half Dome Village.” “Badger Pass” is the “Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area.” And “the Wawona Hotel” becomes “Big Trees Lodge.”
It’s almost as if park leaders went out of their way to think up the most boring, uninspired names possible, perhaps to further stoke what has immediately become widespread outrage.
Delaware North says it owns the names because it was required in 1990 to purchase the assets of the previous concessionaire, which had operated the facilities for more than a century. It has assessed the value of the names alone at $51 million, though it graciously offered to lend them to the park while the legal dispute is resolved.
How kind of them.
The National Park Service, of course, disagrees and says the names were never part of the deal.
And why would they be? Why would the government hand over California history to the guys who run the hot dog stand? Since when does the outfit that rents out the bikes and sells postcards get perpetual rights to public treasures whose link to the granite valley dates back to John Muir’s time?
Maybe the language wasn’t as clear as it could have been, as private operators elsewhere have used this same strategy to try to claim rights to the names of other public treasures.
But to watch a bunch of grubby lawyers twist a contract beyond any reasonable sense of the imagination makes me seriously question my faith in humanity. It’s clear what they’re trying to do is extract an extra payday on their way out the door.
Delaware North, whose unmitigated gall apparently knows no bounds, is even claiming title to the very name “Yosemite National Park.”
Teddy Roosevelt must be rolling over in his grave.
The company apparently likes to scoop up trademarks at the properties it serves. It also claims to own “Space Shuttle Atlantis” as part of its concessions contract at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
If Delaware North somehow gets away with this and absconds with these public treasures, it should become Corporate America Villain No. 1.
It should be removed as soon as possible from any management of public resources ever again, condemned to kingdom come, and boycotted to oblivion or bankruptcy, whichever comes first.
Hopefully, it won’t come to that. Hopefully, the government is using the name change as a shock tactic to generate wider publicity about the dispute and shame Delaware North to settle.
If the concessionaire has any sense, it will quickly reduce its demands and pursue an agreement.
If not, watch out. By claiming ownership of these names, Delaware North is jeopardizing its own instead.
How to protest
Want to share your disgust with Delaware North? Send the company a comment at www.delawarenorth.com/contact-us/contact-us-form.