Okay, now they've done it...they have pushed me into that dizzying wilderness of frothing-at-the-mouth outrage that leads to rape, pillage, and plunder. Problem is, I'm not sure (yet) who to be the most pissed off at: Delaware North Companies, a Buffalo, New York based hospitality services amalgam of assets owned by Jeremy Jacobs (who also owns the Boston Bruins), or the leadership of the National Parks Service.
The reason it's difficult to determine who deserves to be loathed most in this particular instance is this: On the one hand, we have another gross example of government incompetence in the management of the people's assets and heritage, while on the other hand we see a prime demonstration of corporate sleight-of-hand and greed being used to hold what rightfully should be iconic intellectual assets of the American people as ransom bait.
In brief, the issue is this: We the People have just been informed by the National Parks Service that it will soon be changing the traditional names of a number of hotels, lodges, cabins, restaurants, and other cherished sites and public accommodations within the bounds of Yosemite National Park, such as the rustically beautiful old Ahwahnee and Wawona hotels, Yosemite Lodge, and Badger Pass Ski Area, among others, all much closer to 100 years old than not. Why? Glad you asked.
It seems that Delaware North, which has been the concessionaire operating the hospitality venues in Yosemite for a number of years, has recently lost that contract to Aramark, which is another can of worms in my professional opinion, but which is not presently relevant. And, as we are just finding out, due to practices of successive Parks Services administrations over many decades, it seems that many of the venue trademarks in the park (such as Ahwahnee, etc.) have been allowed to remain in private hands rather than We the People's, being transferred (apparently) from owner to owner each time the concessions contractor changed. This situation was created due to the government's practice in the early days of the parks system's creation of allowing individual entrepreneurs to build and own public accommodations and recreational facilities within the parks; naturally, they also owned the names of those facilities, and this situation was never addressed. So, now that Delaware North has lost out to Aramark (think you had problems in the past, Park Service? Just wait til Aramark gets through with you.), Delaware North is suing the Service (or, us) for about $44 million more for the transfer of the Yosemite trademarks, claiming that they were undervalued in the deal with Aramark. It's worth noting, I think, that according to the Los Angeles Times this includes the rights to additional trademarks that Delaware North acquired during its time as concessionaire, although it didn't see fit to notify the Service that it was doing so. (How does that happen, I wonder? Seems a little underhanded, don't you think?) Of course, the Parks Service totally rejects this argument, swears it won't pay it, and has decided that the smart (?) thing to do is just change all the names.
That's the short version of how this kettle of crap soup came to be. Much legal maneuvering continues, of course, and many lawyers are wondering how the hell they're going to spend all the money they're going to make off this debacle, but I'm sure they'll be up to the task. Question is, what about us? We, the American taxpayers, will of course be the ones who are screwed, no matter how this turns out.
The Hillsider isn't through with this, I assure you. It seems that our public lands, the People's greatest treasures, are under attack from all sides: government incompetence, anarchists calling themselves patriots and militias, and all manner of corporate ne'er-do-wells who simply want to exploit what's left for their own greedy purposes. To those of us who cherish our wild places, and our freedom to use and enjoy them without being exploited each time we do, this is unacceptable, and needs to be exposed and resisted...