The problem with Yosemite’s big, bad news

January 15, 2016 | By | Comments (30)

By Kathryn O’Shea-Evans


Will the legendary Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park have a new name come March?  (Photo by Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

There are certain travel icons that should never be re-named: The Eiffel Tower. The Statue of Liberty. The Taj Mahal.

So yesterday, when the news broke that The Ahwahnee, among other Yosemite National Park facilities, is being rebranded because of a trademark dispute with Delaware North, my heart sank in my chest.

What the heck are the people behind this thinking? (I’m throwing a stink-eye at Delaware North—though in the name of full journalistic neutrality, here’s what they have to say for themselves. Something about money? Blah blah blah).

To me, renaming The Ahwahnee the “Majestic Yosemite Hotel” is akin to renaming the sun or moon, or the black-tail deer tromping through Tuolumne Meadows. Families the world over have been staying at The Ahwahnee since 1927, likely as drawn by its elegant monicker—reportedly a take on the indigenous Miwok tribe’s Awooni, or “large mouth”—as its soaring stone and exposed-beam architecture and prime location. The word “Ahwahnee” itself is so fun to say, it’s like a vacation for the tongue. Sing it with me: Ah-wah-neeeeeee! Like a slip and slide, right?

I lived and worked in Yosemite for a summer in college, and remember inhaling as much air in that woodsmoke-scented lodge as I could. I stared as awe-struck at the dining room’s cathedral-esque 34-foot ceiling as I did at Half Dome. Telling friends and family you’re heading to The Ahwahnee means something—it conjures a type of storied glamour rarely found in National Park lodging, and has since long before John F. Kennedy stayed there in 1962. Majestic Yosemite Hotel? That’s a name for a faux lodge copycat, like that one in Orlando (cough, Disney Wilderness Lodge, cough).

Delaware North, if you’re reading this, from your glossy headquarters in Buffalo, New York: this is your chance to be the bigger person. Please let Yosemite keep its iconic names when your contract ends on February 29. Like the earth, we did not inherit The Ahwahnee from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.


  1. Roger Liu

    @Paula “If what is being stated here is correct and DNC had to pay for the names of these iconic facilities, then the new management company should pay some compensation for use of the names. But $51 million? It’s the amount that represents greed. My opinion of these greedy clowns will not change until they can be reasonable about establishing a value for the names. – See more at:

    DNC had to spend many millions of dollars to purchase these intangibles back in 1993 and they have spent millions of dollars developing and extending them ever since. There is no way that the intellectual property associated with a $100 million plus annual turnover are only worth a bit more than $3 million. What Delaware North is asking is not unreasonable at all.

    January 25, 2016 at 2:44 am
  2. Roger Liu

    Delaware North is not responsible for this atrocity. The National Park Service made this decision by itself, presumably in collusion with Aramark. Delaware North even offered them a free license.

    January 25, 2016 at 2:42 am
  3. Chipper

    The renaming is laughable, however as others have noted NPS apparently required DNC to pay for the names and now NPS changes the rules to benefit Aramark who does not have to reimburse DNC for that cost. NPS is the culprit here. Yosemite should be taken from the NPS portfolio and managed as a National Treasure by a Trust much like GGNRA.

    January 21, 2016 at 5:45 am
  4. S West

    None of the names in Yosemite National Park should be changed! It is utter blasphemy!

    January 20, 2016 at 2:10 pm
  5. Judy Swink

    This link is to the 28 Trademarks held by Delaware North – note that the majority are clearly Yosemite-related. I believe the Trademark may be limited to the name as imaged (typeface, size, integrated imagery).–resorts-at-yosemite-inc-352814-page-1-2

    January 17, 2016 at 12:11 pm
  6. Judy Swink

    Here’s a link to a recently researched update to this issue.

    January 17, 2016 at 12:07 pm
  7. Sidney Skinner

    The buildings are the property of the NPS. Any tangible property purchased would be the contents and vehicles etc. DNC has no claim to names that have been in the public domain for years. Shame on DNC. I am encouraging everyone I know to boycott DNC facilities at airports, sports venue, gaming venues and state and national parks.

    January 17, 2016 at 11:12 am
  8. carole barber

    Come on America….. do not become complacency in this constant attack on our heritage, our past. Stand and fight!

    January 16, 2016 at 8:32 pm
  9. Bretzel

    Are you people really siding with the Greedy Aramark Corporation which is even larger than Delaware North? If DNC had to buy the naming rights, Aramark should too. I agree that the names shouldn’t change but your anger is misplaced. People should be boycotting Aramark instead.

    January 16, 2016 at 3:16 pm
  10. Yosemite visitor

    Sickening to think that what belongs to the American people can be altered by some renegade corporate interests. I think Americans need to rise up and fight back!!

    January 16, 2016 at 9:11 am
  11. Joyce Hermit

    “The Majestic Yosemite Hotel” … ugh, sounds like a kitchy casino in Las Vegas!

    January 16, 2016 at 8:42 am
  12. Marilyn

    Please keep the Awahnee historic name for the love of all Yosemite and America

    January 16, 2016 at 1:40 am
  13. Paula

    If what is being stated here is correct and DNC had to pay for the names of these iconic facilities, then the new management company should pay some compensation for use of the names. But $51 million? It’s the amount that represents greed. My opinion of these greedy clowns will not change until they can be reasonable about establishing a value for the names.

    January 15, 2016 at 7:33 pm
  14. JBannis

    “just wrote about this on a Facebook post. How can Delaware North (aka DNC) feel that the iconic names of The Awhanee, Curry Village, and Yosemite Lodge has anything to do with the company managing the concessions?”

    It’s you and a few others who seem not to know that the name is part of a legal contract. DNC was forced to pay for it, why should its successor get it for free? Protest Aramark, who is refusing to pay, or raise the funds and buy the name for the Park System.

    January 15, 2016 at 4:57 pm
  15. JBannis

    The article is more than a bit misleading, no? When Delaware North took over management of the Ahwanee, it had to buy the name from the previous manager, Curry. The new management simply has to buy the name Ahwanee from Delaware North.

    This has to do with negotiations on price, not a withholding of the name. If the public and the author feels strongly that the name should stay with the hotel, they can pony up the dollars to purchase it for the Park System to use exclusively with the property.

    January 15, 2016 at 4:53 pm
  16. Barbara

    How is this possible? Sick to my stomach.

    January 15, 2016 at 4:03 pm
  17. Carol M Davidson

    I too worked at Yosemite for a summer during college and feel the same as you do. I understand there are contractual issues, but certainly this should be worked out. Really.

    January 15, 2016 at 4:00 pm
  18. Larry Silveira

    Come on guys, just do the right thing. My wife and I celebrated our 25th there. Is was priceless. The Ahwahnee isn’t a football/baseball stadium that gets a name change every decade to the highest bidder. Once again honor and money are two opposites. I don’t know how to create a digital petition but if someone does I and the rest of the the world will sign it.

    January 15, 2016 at 3:59 pm
  19. Diane Conway

    Totally agree with this.
    It’s a big, convoluted mess but in the end these landmarks should retain the original names. PERIOD.

    January 15, 2016 at 3:39 pm
  20. Ashleigh Tripp

    I don’t think they should be renamed either, but DNC has a point. The National Park Service made them purchase the trademarks for all those names at an additional cost. DNC was contractually obligated to buy the trademarks from Curry Company before they were allowed to be an authorized concessioner of Yosemite. Fair is fair. The NPS should also force the new authorized concessioner to purchase the same trademarks. What was expected of DNC shouldn’t be allowed for the new concessioner!! That doesn’t make any sense at all.
    The whole thing is really sad, but I think people are boycotting and angry at the wrong asset holder.

    January 15, 2016 at 2:40 pm
  21. Chris

    The DNC explanation seems pretty straightforward. A contract is a contract and it what DNC states is true, then Aramark should have to buy the whole kit and kapoodle. I’d like to see something on the NPS website (or anywhere) that refutes the DNC’s position. Clearly it’s not so simple or the NPS wouldn’t be changing the names of the facilities. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by the reactions above considering the sentiment in this country at the moment that presumes any large corporation is bad and should be screwed over at any possible opportunity.

    And let’s be real, if Aramark can afford the $2,000,000,000 15-year contract, then they can certainly afford to compensate the DNC in accordance with the terms of the contract made btwn them and the NPS.

    January 15, 2016 at 2:36 pm
  22. Douglas Kufus

    And Disney is rebranding Mickey as “the rodent with big ears!”

    January 15, 2016 at 1:37 pm
  23. Donna

    Outrageous, offensive, and will ruin Delaware North as a company (good riddance). This place and these names are treasures you don’t mess with. Take another path, DNC, and watch as the benefits accrue. Seriously. Support our Valley and the names therein, and see what happens to your bottom line. I think you’ll be surprised.

    January 15, 2016 at 1:02 pm
  24. Chad Shelton

    Here is their phone number: 716-858-5000 Ask for Glen White

    January 15, 2016 at 12:39 pm
  25. Tom Griffith

    I’m headed next to Delaware North’s website to find out who I am boycotting and to let them know that I am.

    January 15, 2016 at 12:10 pm
  26. Robert Clemmons

    They can call it whatever they like. We all know it is the Ahwahnee, and our family will continue to refer to it as such. DNC says it is a question about the intellectual rights they were required to buy when they managed it, and now that they aren’t going to manage it, they think the new managers should have to buy it. When lawyers start talking, everyone is in trouble. in the end, DNC is going to be holding on to the rights of words for which they will have no use. EVEN THEIR OWN WEBSITE refers to the hotel as the Ahwahnee. So be it. Ahwahnee it shall be.

    January 15, 2016 at 11:42 am
  27. Linda Hopkins

    I just wrote about this on a Facebook post. How can Delaware North (aka DNC) feel that the iconic names of The Awhanee, Curry Village, and Yosemite Lodge has anything to do with the company managing the concessions? I believe that most people have no clue who Delaware North Co. Was before they pulled this S#!t. I, for one, will be very careful not to do business with them again. If you look on their website they list the companies that they manage. DNC, step up to the plate and stop being so greedy. In this case the media coverage that you are receiving is not going to help your (now) struggling business. Look at what social media did for Walter Palmer (poacher who killed Cecil the Lion). #boycottDelawareNorthCorporation.

    January 15, 2016 at 11:28 am
  28. Rebecca Humphrey

    I agree ! Do not re-name ! I live in a town that was re-named by developers years ago…from Temecula (named by aboriginal Indian’s and means “sunlight shining thru the mist”—-to Rancho California !!! Thank God a vote was taken to drop the new name and return to the beautiful name Temecula !

    January 15, 2016 at 10:21 am
  29. Elizabeth (@southwestliz)

    I’m totally appalled and tweeted it!

    January 15, 2016 at 10:06 am
  30. Jen stoicheff

    I couldn’t agree more. The whole thing makes me ill.

    January 15, 2016 at 9:52 am

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