Yosemite is the perfect place to honor the upcoming centennial of the National Park Service. And not a bad spot to enjoy Father’s Day.
Too bad President Barack Obama’s visit this weekend can’t include the famed Curry Village or Ahwahnee Hotel. Oh, he’ll see a campground and historic lodging. But they’re “Half Dome Village” now, and – ugh – “The Majestic Yosemite Hotel,” thanks to a trademark feud started by a former concessionaire.
That may not spoil the fun for the first family, but those new names are certainly a thorn in the side of this state’s Yosemite lovers. And they underscore the ongoing need to cherish and safeguard public lands.
Obama has put more than 260 million acres of public land under permanent protection, a record. California alone has seen the addition of the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument northwest of Sacramento, the Fort Ord National Monument in Monterey County and three new national monuments in the desert.
Most visitors to these places consider them treasures. But recent years have also brought some high-profile abuses. This week, a 23-year-old San Diego woman working under the social media moniker “CreepyTings” was sentenced to two years probation and 200 hours of community service for defacing rock formations in seven national parks with big acrylic paintings. Casey Nocket also has been banned from federal lands during her probation and will spend much of her community service doing graffiti removal.
This month, a 23-year-old Portland man died when he wandered off a boardwalk at Yellowstone National Park and slipped into a 199-degree hot spring. Last month, tourists at the same park picked up a newborn bison calf and drove it to a ranger station, despite regulations requiring people to stay 25 yards from wildlife. When rangers tried to return the calf to the herd, it was, of course, rejected and had to be euthanized.
Then there is the ex-Yosemite concessionaire, Delaware North, which exploited a twist in its contract to demand some $51 million for the trademarked names of iconic park landmarks. The park answered by changing the names pending some legal resolution.
California Assemblymen Ken Cooley, Adam Gray and Frank Bigelow want to ban the state from contracting with concessionaires who try to trademark park place names; their Assembly Bill 2249, which they hope will become a model, is pending in the state Senate.
We hope their respect for public lands, and that of Obama, will also serve as an example. These places aren’t just for holidays. They’re our legacy.