I can still remember my first visit to the legendary Curry Village in Yosemite Valley. My dad was reminiscing about his visits as a child as we drove through the valley on Southside Drive. As we approached Curry Village, I couldn’t take my eyes off the surrounding granite. The campsite, nestled between Half Dome and Glacier Point, is home to some of the most beautiful views of the behemoths towering above. Many others who have visited the campsite share a similar story, holding the location and its name dear to them.

Throughout the national park’s history, many artists such as Ansel Adams and Harry Cassie Best have been able to capture its natural beauty through photography and painting. Artists and tourists alike have enjoyed the park’s scenery and iconic imagery since it opened in 1890. With its increasing popularity throughout the years, many names for locations, such as Curry Village, have become fixtures over generations of visitors. However, a few years ago, the names of these locations were threatened.

In 2015, the park’s concessionaire contract expired, resulting in a bidding war between multiple vendors. The contract, which was originally held by Delaware North Company Inc. since 1993, was lost to their rival, a subsidiary of Aramark. Delaware North sued the National Park Service, claiming that when they took over operations in 1993 that they had also purchased the intellectual property to the names of certain locations. Some of the names of these locations included: The Ahwahnee Hotel, Curry Village, The Wawona Hotel, and Badger Pass.

When the public got wind of the news, people were upset. Everyone knew the locations by their historic names, so stripping those names seemed wrong. No one wanted to call The Ahwahnee Hotel the “Majestic Yosemite Hotel.” Something was off, and the park’s guests and workers alike knew it. Signs were made to display the new names, but logos on things such as napkins or towels were not reprinted. Luckily, in 2019 the National Park Service settled the lawsuit with a $12 million agreement, and all respective locations were able to reinstate their original names. Delaware North was able to get the money for the names they believed were their intellectual property. One of the most important effects of the lawsuit was how it affected future agreements for national park concessions. Was this how things should have ended up in the first place? No, of course not. It felt like a cheap gut shot to every person who cherishes Yosemite. Nevertheless, we can view it as a bump in the road and look to the bright side now that the names have returned to their rightful ownership.

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Tim Sweeters

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