Opinion

What a ripoff: For $12 million, those ‘fake’ Yosemite names that no one used could’ve stayed

Video: Yosemite National Park hoping for smooth transition

On Tuesday, a new park concessions company takes over. The departing company, a subsidiary of New York-based Delaware North, trademarked the names “Ahwahnee,” “Curry Village” and “Yosemite Lodge,” during its tenure and now contends it must be paid
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On Tuesday, a new park concessions company takes over. The departing company, a subsidiary of New York-based Delaware North, trademarked the names “Ahwahnee,” “Curry Village” and “Yosemite Lodge,” during its tenure and now contends it must be paid

What’s in a name?

When it comes to Yosemite National Park and the historic names of its hotels and lodges, far too much.

Yes, it’s welcome news that the Ahwahnee Hotel, Curry Village, the Wawona Hotel and Badger Pass Ski Area have regained the monikers we know and love now that the National Park Service and former concessionaire DNC Parks and Resorts settled their three-year-old dispute.

But let’s be honest here: No one with a spine used the temporary names anyway. Not unless they work for one of the parties involved.

For everyone else, the Ahwahnee remained the Ahwahnee, Curry Village remained Curry Village and Badger Pass remained Badger Pass. We didn’t pay any heed to this bogosity.

The most vital piece of information in Monday’s announcement was buried in the second paragraph. It said the name trademarks “will transfer at no cost” to the park service when its current contract with Aramark ends. Furthermore, Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman said language will be written into future concessionaire contracts to ensure this sort of intellectual property heist never happens again.

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This is the most salient point because the only reason DNC Parks and Resorts was allowed to get away with swiping those names was because federal officials were asleep at the wheel.

How else would a private company be allowed to file such trademarks? Heck, DNC Parks and Resorts even trademarked “Yosemite National Park.” Which is why all the hats and T-shirts sold at park gift shops only say “Yosemite.”

Long before this became an issue, somebody should have spotted what the concessionaire was up to and put a stop to it.

Instead, the park service was too busy counting up the 10% of the gross revenues it received from DNC Parks and Resorts during its two-decade partnership with Yosemite.

According to terms of the civil settlement, taxpayers and Aramark will fork over approximately $12 million to DNC Parks and Resorts in order to have the names restored. Twelve million!

Which is nothing short of outrageous, especially when you consider Yosemite is currently grappling with $582.7 million in deferred maintenance according to a recent report by the Property and Environment Research Center.

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So instead of putting that $12 million into repairing Yosemite’s roads, fixing trails or upgrading ranger programs, we’re handing it to a company with revenues in the billions. Wonderful.

At those prices, the fake names could’ve stayed. No one used them anyway.

Visitors at the gift shop in Yosemite Village discuss the name changes and take advantage of items at half price as the concessionaire change from Delaware North to Aramark Monday, Feb. 29, 2016 in Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park.

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Marek Warszawski writes opinion columns on news, politics, sports and quality of life issues for The Fresno Bee, where he has worked since 1998. He is a Bay Area native, a UC Davis graduate and lifelong Sierra frolicker. He welcomes discourse with readers but does not suffer fools nor trolls.
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