Union Democrat Editorial Board

In a little more than a week, Curry Village, Yosemite Lodge and the Ahwahnee Hotel will be no more. The names, that is.

Curry Village will become Half Dome Village, Yosemite Lodge Yosemite Valley Lodge and most ridiculous of all the Ahwahnee will be named The Majestic Yosemite Hotel. That sounds like some place rented for a slapstick movie rather than a luxury hotel overlooking one of America’s most exquisite and beloved sights, a place where presidents and queens stayed.

When the National Park Service announced the name change in mid-January, a little-known lawsuit that had been filed against them in September came to the fore. People were mad, mostly at Delaware North, the company suing the federal government.

It’s a complicated tale but essentially Delaware North was not chosen to manage concessions in the park — hotels, ski area, golf course, which bring in millions and millions of dollars each year. The company had been doing it for 23 years. The Park Service instead chose Aramark.

Fair enough. That’s business.

But Delaware North is claiming it is owed $40 million for the names, guest lists and all sorts of other stuff that falls under the heading of intellectual property. It claims it paid more than that when it won the contract in the first place.

The government estimates the value at more like $3 million, which would indicate the government acknowledges Delaware North is owed something.

Delaware North has subsequently amended its lawsuit to claim the Parks Service is intentionally trying to drum up public ire — and damage the company’s reputation — by changing the names.

Changing the names seems like a na-na-na-boo-boo child’s game of not liking the rules so the Park Service is taking its ball and going home. It’s the Park Service that allowed all those names to be trademarked. It’s the Park Service that has fumbled this ball.

But here’s something curious Union Democrat reporter Guy McCarthy heard this week from Park Service spokesman Scott Gediman. The Park Service makes its own signs, and no signs have been made yet. None have been started, Gediman said Friday.

That’s a lot of signs that need replacing before March 1, when Aramark takes over.

This has degenerated into a game of who blinks first. Does Delaware North settle to end the public relations nightmare? Does the Park Service go ahead with its threat?

Who loses in this scenario?

The people who love Yosemite National Park and who entrusted its care in the federal government.

To be sure, Half Dome will not shatter and El Capitan will still be gallant no matter what the hotels nearby are called. No one’s announcing any plans to change those names.

But still.

The park service should stand above the fray. Make sure Delaware North gets what it’s owed and stay out of the naming business. Take care of our national treasure.

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