The Majestic Yosemite Hotel. Big Trees Lodge.
Visitors to Yosemite National Park could be forgiven for not recognizing those hostelries’ names.
They used to be called — and were famously known as — the Ahwahnee and Wawona hotels.
“It’s just really surreal,” said Monica Hubert, a former manager of the Wawona. “I mean, it’s a National Historic Landmark.”
The hotels and other Yosemite landmarks have been renamed because of a contract dispute.
The outgoing concessionaire, Delaware North, lost its bid for a new contract to manage the properties to Yosemite Hospitality, LLC, a subsidiary of Aramark. Delaware North sued, saying the bidding process was unfair.
As the case progressed, it came out that Delaware North had trademarked many of the names of properties it managed.
“When we used the Ahwahnee Hotel in marketing, we always put a little ‘R’ by it,” said Dan Jensen, who managed Yosemite properties for Delaware North. “The existence of the fact that these names are protected and trademarked is just not a surprise to anybody. It wasn’t sneaky.”
Delaware North wants Yosemite Hospitality to pay for the trademarks and other property, which the company says are worth more than $50 million. No thanks, says Yosemite Hospitality — and the National Park Service. They put the value of the assets at just $3 million.
This week Yosemite Hospitality took over and all the signage is being changed. The dispute has created a huge uproar.
“We strongly believe that the names of these facilities belong with them, they’re historical,” said park spokesman Scott Gediman. “They belong with the facilities and ultimately belong to the American people.”
The National Park Service maintains the name changes are temporary. Meanwhile, it’s asking the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to nullify the trademarks.
The former Wawona manager, Monica Hubert, said that would make sense.
“I mean those names are all oriented towards the [Native American] tribes that were in Yosemite,” she said. “There’s reasons why they’re actually named those things.”