Yosemite National Park's historic hotels, camp villages get new names

Would a stay at Yosemite National Park’s Ahwahnee Hotel by any other name be just as sweet?

Park officials certainly hope so, as the iconic inn and several others inside the park were forced to change their names Tuesday after the National Park Service failed to reach a settlement with the hotel’s departing vendor.

Starting Tuesday, the Ahwahnee Hotel, established in the 1920s, is now The Majestic Yosemite Hotel. The Wawona Hotel is Big Trees Lodge and Curry Village – a campsite leading to Half Dome – is now Half Dome Village. Yosemite Lodge at the Falls has been renamed Yosemite Valley Lodge and Badger Pass Ski Area is now the Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area, the park announced.

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“This action will not affect the historic status of the facilities, as they are still important cultural icons to the National Park Service and the public. Our stewardship of these properties is unwavering,” Park Supt. Don Neubacher said in a statement announcing the changes in January. “While it is unfortunate that we must take this action, changing the names of these facilities will help us provide seamless service to the American public during the transition to the new concessioner.”

Ahead of Tuesday's change, someone stole the historic sign for the Ahwahnee Hotel over the weekend that greets park visitors heading into the village, said park spokesman Scott Gediman. The Ahwahnee name had been connected to the park since 1927.

“I definitely feel like it’s a historical moment,” he said. “There’s always change but Half Dome and El Capitan are still there…Yosemite is as beautiful as ever.”

The name changes avoid potential trademark infringement issues with the park’s previous concessioner, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite Inc., the Park Service said. The company or its predecessor had trademarked the names of the famed Yosemite attractions without the Park Service’s approval and says they are worth $50 million, according to the Park Service.

Some signs, like Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, are simply covered with a piece of plywood with the new name printed on top of it, Gediman said. The brown metal direction signs are being covered with new ones, he said.

The Park Service is fighting a trademark of the name Yosemite National Park, it said. The company that claims to own the trademark told the Times on Monday that the dispute is only over the value of the name for merchandising purposes.

The new vendor, Yosemite Hospitality LLC, was selected through a bidding process that ended in June. The contract is for 15 years and gives the company management of the park’s lodging, retail, recreational services and food for an estimated 4 million annual visitors, the Park Service said.

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