Posted by: Sandy Steinman | September 30, 2016

California Protects Historic State Park Names

News Release from Assemblyman Cooley

September 21 – The California Heritage Protection Act (AB 2249) was signed into law today by Governor Brown, Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) has announced. AB 2249 ensures park concessionaires in California’s state parks cannot trademark historic place names simply due to their status as a concessionaire. The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Cooley and Assemblymen Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals) and Adam Gray (D-Merced) in response to the U.S. National Park Service’s controversial renaming of several landmarks at Yosemite National Park due to a dispute with their ex-concessionaire.

“This bill makes clear that trademarking of historic names in state parks by concessionaires without any independent basis for a claim is unacceptable and our state Department of Parks and Recreation cannot sign off on the type of trademarking conduct that produced the Yosemite dispute,” said Assemblyman Cooley. “With AB 2249’s signature, that kind of behavior will disqualify a concessionaire from receiving a concessions contract in California, which makes the bipartisan unanimity of the Legislature especially impressive.”

The Ahwahnee Hotel has been re-named the “Majestic Yosemite Hotel,” Curry Village is now “Half Dome Village,” the Wawona Hotel is “Big Trees Lodge” and Badger Pass Ski Area is now called “Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area.”

AB 2249 ensures nothing of the same kind occurs in a California state park. To keep concessionaires from co-opting state landmarks, this bill adds to state law a prohibition on concessionaires claiming ownership of a name associated with a California state park and disqualifies a bidder from future contracts if they attempt such trademark claims.

“Our state parks are not like football or baseball stadiums, trading sponsorship deals to the highest bidder,” said Assemblyman Gray. “The people of California protect and preserve these landmarks as a part of our history, and it is the people of California who own their storied names.”

“I have the privilege of representing Yosemite National Park and know first-hand how treasured these landmarks are by the people of our state,” said Assemblyman Bigelow. “I’m proud to co-author AB 2249 to protect historic sites up and down California.”

California’s Yosemite National Park is on the short list of America’s most magnificent parks and is filled with historic landmarks built decades ago—some date back to the 19th century. The Ahwahnee Hotel was built in the 1920s in a valley meadow with the sheer granite of Half Dome as its backdrop; its filing for the National Register of Historic Places explains its name comes from a local Native American word meaning “deep, grassy meadow.” Nearby Curry Village is named after the couple who established a summer camp there in 1899.  The Wawona Hotel, in the southwest corner of Yosemite National Park, was originally constructed 140 years ago, in 1876. All three were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970s.

Assembly Bill 2249 will take effect January 1, 2017.


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