The news that Yosemite will rename several iconic places is deeply disturbing. That a former concessionaire, in a case of sour grapes, can trademark and demand payment for use of place names within a national park is just wrong. The company, Delaware North Companies, is claiming that the names of many historic sites within Yosemite actually belong to them, not to the American people. Places such as Curry Village, Ahwahnee Lodge, Wawona Hotel, and the popular Half Dome logo. Incredibly, Delaware North is even claiming that the name Yosemite National Park belongs to them.
A few years ago, I participated in an inspirational retreat at the Ahwahnee Hotel, with dozens of other leaders to advance efforts to engage a greater diversity of Americans to come explore and enjoy Yosemite National Park. It was a special meeting in a special place, a place full of a rich history that includes visits from U.S. presidents and international heads of state. It even served as a hospital for veterans during World War II. It’s a place that belongs to our shared history and future. Changing its name, or the name of other public lands and landmarks, should be driven by a sense of justice and inclusivity, not by corporate greed.
It is petty that having already made billions of dollars from selling food, merchandise, and lodging at our national parks to millions of visitors, Delaware North is essentially extorting taxpayers to allow Americans to keep what we already own. At a time when the rest of the country is celebrating the centennial of our national parks, Delaware North is chipping away their very foundation—the idea that these places belong to all Americans.
This is not isolated to just Yosemite National Park. Delaware North also has contracts to be the concessionaire for nine other outdoor treasures, including Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Olympic, Kings Canyon, Sequoia, and Shenandoah national parks. The company makes a routine business practice of stealthily gathering up rights to names synonymous with pieces of America, privatizing names widely regarded as in the public domain, including the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame and the Space Shuttle Atlantis.
We must demand that Delaware North return our pieces of America before we must start referring to parks as “formerly known as...”. Please join the Sierra Club’s 2.4 million members and supporters and send a strong message to the Jeremy Jacobs, the CEO of Delaware North, and tell him to withdraw the company’s lawsuit and allow the National Park Service to continue to allow all Americans the opportunity to share in the longstanding legacy of Yosemite and all of our national parks.
Dan Chu is the senior director of the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign.