Last month National Park Service officials made headlines when they announced their plan to remove the historic names from many of Yosemite National Park's treasured amenities, like the Ahwahnee Hotel and Curry Village, it sparked a public outcry.
It was a bold move in a legal dispute between the government, outgoing Yosemite concessions company Delaware North, and Aramark, which is set to take over operations next month, thanks to a new $2 billion dollar contract. Delaware North says it owns the old names, and it wants Aramark to pay over $50 million dollars for the rights to use them. Delaware North even says it has trademarked the name “Yosemite National Park” itself.
But what does this say about the commercialization of our national parks, and specifically the way Yosemite is run? And how much political influence do concessions companies wield? Robert Binnewies knows about these issues firsthand. He was the park superintendent from 1979-1986, and helped craft a landmark plan to limit commercial activities in Yosemite Valley. But before the plan could be fully implemented he was dismissed from his post, presumably for making an secret recording of a conversation with a park critic. Others have suggested politics may have played a role in his demotion.
Binnewies documents the story of his ouster and his concern for the future of the park in a new book "Your Yosemite." He joined us on Valley Edition to talk about the current controversy over Yosemite's historic names and the problems that he says arise when big business meets the values of preservation and conservation.