Name changes for Ahwahnee Hotel and other Yosemite attractions draw outrage

There was widespread outrage Friday over news that the Ahwahnee Hotel and other Yosemite National Park landmarks soon would be renamed amid a legal dispute between the government and the facilities' outgoing operator.

Residents who live around the park as well as longtime visitors express dismay at the changes, saying they felt the names were part of the public domain. 

On March 1, the famed Ahwahnee — a name affixed to countless trail guides and family memories — will become the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. And Curry Village, a collection of cabins near the center of the park that has carried the same name since the 1800s, will become Half Dome Village, park spokesman Scott Gediman said Thursday.

The dispute arose after Delaware North — which had operated Yosemite's hotels, restaurants and outdoor activities — lost a $2-billion bid last year to renew its contract.

The company said that it had been required to purchase “the assets of the previous concessionaire, including its intellectual property, at a cost of $115 million in today’s dollars” when it took over operations in 1993, spokeswoman Lisa Cesaro said.

That intellectual property included the original names, she said.

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Now Delaware North wants to be paid more than $50 million for the rights. Cesaro said the company was willing to lend the names for free until its court claim is resolved.

Terry Arner, owner of Yosemite Tractor in Coarsegold, Calif., said the name scuffle at Yosemite was on "the top 10 hit list" in the gateway towns of the National Park.

He thought Delaware North was asking too much money for the famous names they'd surreptitiously trademarked, but had the right to sell them.

It was an opinion that held no weight with a group of locals, whatever its legal standing. Mary Fictum, a Oakhurst waitress, threw her shoulders back.

"It's the people's park, what gives them the right?" she asked.

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Her 13-year-old daughter Katina had headed off to junior high talking about starting a petition against the name changes.

Arner pulled up his Facebook page showing a long list of local boycott calls and petitions.

"No way people around here take this," said Fictum. "These names hold our history and our old-timers are feisty."

Social media have been filled with outrage about the name change as well.

The National Park Service has said that rights to the names were never part of Delaware North's original deal, and that the new concessions contract with Aramark makes clear that the names will not be sold this time either.

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