Yosemite National Park will get the historic names of its properties back in a civil lawsuit settlement reached between the National Park Service and Yosemite’s former concessionaire, DNC Parks and Resorts at Yosemite.
Place names to be restored include the Ahwahnee Hotel, Curry Village, the Wawona Hotel, and Badger Pass Ski Area, Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman said.
Some place name signs in Yosemite Valley were returned within hours of the settlement being signed Monday morning, including the Curry Village sign, which was hidden by a covering that said Half Dome Village.
Delaware North, which operated as DNC in Yosemite, sued the Park Service for Yosemite-related intellectual property – including designs, symbols and names protected by copyright or trademark – after losing their lucrative 15-year Yosemite concessionaire contract to Philadelphia-based firm Aramark, which took over concessionaire operations in Yosemite in 2016.
Aramark operates as Yosemite Hospitality in the California park.
The only Yosemite name that will not be immediately changed back is Yosemite Valley Lodge, which was formerly Yosemite Lodge, Gediman said. It’s unknown whether that name will change back in the future.
The settlement involves the transfer of trademarks and service marks at issue from Delaware North to Aramark, which will then transfer them at no cost to the Park Service upon the expiration or termination of their current contract, which goes through 2031.
“Places like Curry Village that opened in 1899 and the Ahwahnee in 1927 – these place names go with these iconic buildings here in Yosemite National Park,” Gediman said. “They have continued to be tremendously important to the American people, so we here in Yosemite National Park are just ecstatic to conclude the lawsuit, to be a party of the settlement agreement, and we feel it’s a huge win for everybody. Ultimately these names will remain with these places in Yosemite National Park.”
Aramark will now also be able to sell souvenirs in gift shops that say Yosemite National Park, which they weren’t able to do since taking over the Yosemite concessionaire contract, Gediman said.
The civil settlement states the U.S. will pay Delaware North around $3.8 million and Aramark will pay approximately $8.1 million for Yosemite-related intellectual property.
The settlement also involves Delaware North’s transfer of various types of tangible assets (not previously purchased by Aramark) to Aramark and the Park Service.
The settlement additionally provides for payments to Delaware North from Aramark and the United States “to resolve any and all contractual disputes among the three parties arising from Delaware North’s departure as a concessioner at Yosemite, and Aramark’s assumption of its Yosemite concession contract.”
“Any changes to the current names of properties at Yosemite National Park following this settlement will be based upon a schedule to be determined by Aramark and the National Park Service.”
Gediman said the historic Yosemite names are back “effective immediately,” but didn’t have an estimated timeline for fixing all the wording, which will include changes to websites, maps, and menus.
The Park Service has put in protections to ensure other parks don’t run into a similar trademark issue in the future.
“Although this settlement is just in Yosemite now,” Gediman said, “when new contracts are being given, the National Park Service has revised the language for new concessionaire contracts” to include protections for intellectual property.
Yosemite Gateway Partners called the news “one of the most eagerly-awaited announcements in Yosemite’s recent history.”
“Now if only that beautiful sign (for the Ahwahnee Hotel) which disappeared at the time of the name controversy might be restored, too,” the organization said in a statement.