A personal, emotional response to this week’s news from Yosemite National Park:
Some mega-corp is suing your National Parks and is forcing them to change the names of many of the historic sites within the park, that were named long before the corp had anything to do with the park itself. Yes, Delaware Asshats North™ also trademarked ‘Yosemite National Park’.
We love the National Parks here at The Outdoor Society. This much should be pretty obvious to all of our readers. For those new, trust us; we couldn’t live without America’s best idea. Sometimes, it’s hard to point out the flaws of something you love without sounding like you’re wanting to break up. Please keep in mind that our love for our public lands is still there, I promise. However, the following words I need to get off my chest.
To get you up to speed, this is part of a press release we received yesterday from Yosemite National Park:
Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher announced today that the names of several buildings and facilities within the park will be renamed to eliminate potential trademark infringement issues with the current concessioner of Yosemite, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc. (DNCY), a subsidiary of the Delaware North Companies. The name changes will impact several iconic buildings and landmarks listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Yes, you are reading this right.
Some mega-corp is suing your National Parks and is forcing them to change the names of many of the historic sites within the park that were named long before the corp had anything to do with the park itself. Yes, Delaware Asshats North™ also trademarked ‘Yosemite National Park’.
Still breathing? Still seeing straight?
The background, for those of you not familiar with the process, is as follows:
The Department of Interior couldn’t possible manage all the lodges, visitor centers, gift shops, and hotels in every National Park. So they do what every government entity does, they post RFPs (a request for proposal) for anyone to bid on getting the contract awarded to manage the places on their behalf. This is all pretty standard stuff, and most government agencies of all sizes operate in this manner. Since this is a federal contract and those contracts are huge, multi-year commitments, the only companies that could possible bid on those contracts (and fulfill the stringent requirements) are corporations that made it their business to be a concessionaries. The same companies hold contracts to serve food in conference centers, sporting arenas and the likes. This also answers our questions why many of the experiences in those establishments are mediocre at best. It’s giant, mass-produced, and managed from a far away cookie-cutter business.
I’ve always eyed this arrangement with a big hesitant question mark. As much as the National Parks can be considered “America’s Best Idea” worthy of Ken Burns documentaries, this part of the ‘idea’ is horrible. Not in the sense of ‘don’t show me how the sausage is made’ sense of horrible, where the outcome might still be enjoyable (i’m German, I like mystery meat sausage). It is horrible in the sense of an ‘accident’ waiting to happen.
You see Delaware Asshat North™ previously had the contract to manage those place in Yosemite. They had trademarked those names for marketing purposes. Why the Department of Interior or Federal Government allowed this to have happened is beyond me, and another complete travesty in itself.
In this case, when the renewal for the contract came up, they lost to their fiercest and one of their only competitors in this market, another cookie-cutter company known as Aramark. The deal for Yosemite was not chump change, but worth $2 billion over many years.
The Delaware Asshat North™ leadership must’ve been pretty pissed losing that bid. It takes a lot of time and money to prepare a bid like that, plus they are losing out on all that revenue for the foreseeable future. I can’t even imagine getting that email from the National Park Service saying thanks, but no thanks.
In retaliation and personal consolation, the asshats must’ve immediately called up their legal department and told them to pull out the big guns. Their legal team did what attorneys do what they do best: Waste everyone’s time and money.
By everyone I do mean all of us, the public. I don’t want to know what this cost the Department of Interior.
Yes, I’m pissed at Delaware Asshat North™. This is a total asshole move and showed the absolute worst side of American business: If you can’t succeed through normal means you resort to shady tactics. And the legal system has been rigged for many decades to entertain those insane claims.
Delaware North also runs concessions at the Kennedy Space Center and has a trademark application for “Space Shuttle Atlantis”, government court papers say. Delaware North “apparently embarked on a business model where by it collects trademarks to the names of iconic property owned by the United States”, Robertson wrote.
What is worse for me is that this was allowed to have happened to begin with. Why did the US Trademark office allow those names to be trademarked to begin with? Wasn’t the Department of Interior informed? Weren’t they able to stop this from going into effect? You know, on behalf of the American people? On behalf of common decency and non-douchy business practices?
In the end, this saga reveals one of the biggest weaknesses in the National Park System. Due to its sheer size and continuous underfunding by Congress, the Department of Interior is asked to perform a task that’s unreasonable and beyond its capabilities. Thus it is forced to lay in bed with shitty companies.
We the people own this land, but bit by bit we are getting fucked over. We are getting reamed by corporations out for a quick buck, or by religious fanatics with guns and bibles. Yes, nothing has changed in this country since the white men first came to these shores.
Will I continue to visit the parks and it’s lodges and visitor centers managed by Aramark and Delaware Asshat North™? Of course. Those places are too special, to precious for me to turn my back on them. However, now, even more so then before, paradise has turned a bit dirty.
Picture by: Edward Stojakovic via Flickr.