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Yosemite National Park Entangled In Trademark Dispute Over Landmark Names


Some of the most recognizable names at Yosemite National Park are about to change. I'm not talking about the natural wonders of Yosemite, like El Capitan and Half Dome, rather places like the Ahwahnee Hotel, Curry Village and the Wawona Hotel. Starting in March, those places will all get new names. The background to this is a legal dispute between the National Park Service and the park's outgoing concessions provider, Delaware North. That company actually owns the trademarks to many names in Yosemite. Earlier today, I spoke with Jeremie Kramer about the change in names. He grew up in and around the park, and he's worked there on and off for years. And, by the way, if you hear a little noise in the background of our conversation, that's just Jeremie's 11-month-old son. Welcome to the program.

JEREMIE KRAMER: Well, thank you.

SHAPIRO: For those who've never been to Yosemite, describe these places, these famous lodges, the Ahwahnee, the Wawona, Curry Village. What are they like?

KRAMER: Oh, there's so much to describe. I wouldn't know where to begin. Curry Village is a - kind of a rustic place to stay, lots of cabins to stay in, lots of tent cabins as well. It's been around since the 1800s. The Ahwahnee is spectacular. It's just amazing architecture, one of the most beautiful dining rooms I've ever been to. The Wawona Hotel - I actually grew up in Wawona, and...

SHAPIRO: Really?

KRAMER: And the hotel was - it was just the hotel to me, and it always will be.

SHAPIRO: What are the names being changed to?

KRAMER: Several of the names seem a little silly. The Ahwahnee will become the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. Curry Village will become Half Dome Village, which, I guess, makes sense 'cause it's pretty close. It overlooks Half Dome, for sure.

SHAPIRO: Jeremie, you grew up in and around these places. What do their original names mean to you?

KRAMER: Well, the Wawona Hotel means home, you know? Wawona in general means home, and no matter where I go in the world, if somebody says, hey, let's go to the hotel, I'll always picture running up the hill behind the hotel and seeing it come up over the rise, you know? The Wawona Hotel's part of my life, part of my past. And it always will be, no matter what they name it. It'll always be the Wawona Hotel.

SHAPIRO: You're not going to start calling it the Big Trees Lodge?

KRAMER: I'm sure that I'll hear a lot of that, and I might, you know, just to be more clear with people who don't have the same feel for the place that I do. But it'll always be the Wawona Hotel to me.

SHAPIRO: It seems like this has been happening for a really long time with sports stadiums being renamed for companies. Is it at least some consolation that these famous historic lodges are not getting corporate titles?

KRAMER: (Laughter) Absolutely. I mean, if Disney had bought up the contract, I would've hate to have had to go to the Mickey Mouse Hotel (laughter) or something like that.


SHAPIRO: These changes take effect March 1. Do you think people are going to have some kind of a commemoration or something like that as the changeover takes place?

KRAMER: My guess is, it'll go mostly unnoticed.

SHAPIRO: Really?

KRAMER: Obviously there will be some structural changes, and thing will have to be re-titled and everything. But for the people around here, it's not going to change our day-to-day life in any way.

SHAPIRO: As we mentioned, the new name take effect March 1. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.