Assemblyman Cooley Encourages Other 49 States to Follow California’s Lead and Protect Their Historic State Park Names

For immediate release:
Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake

Wawona Hotel

RANCHO CORDOVA – Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) announced today he has kicked off a national push to encourage other states to protect their historic state park landmarks as California did this year 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 concessionaire. 

Here in California, a bipartisan team of lawmakers introduced Assembly Bill 2249—the California Heritage Protection Act—to ensure park concessionaires in California’s state parks cannot trademark historic place names simply due to their status as a concessionaire. AB 2249 was signed into law on September 21 and will take effect January 1, 2017. Now, the authors contend, it is time for their colleagues in the other 49 state legislatures to take similar action.

“Park concessionaires do not just provide services; they are entrusted to operate some of the most treasured places our Government is responsible for preserving,” said Assemblyman Cooley. “They should not be improving their bottom line on the backs of the public.”

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 declares such a claim disqualifies any bidders from future contracts if they made a claim of trademark in either a California state park or a U.S. national park. Importantly, AB 2249 establishes a firm state policy to protect California’s treasured icons and sends a strong message that California will not tolerate ‘bad actors.’ This is intended to put pressure on the concessionaire in question to resolve this Yosemite dispute.

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.

“We in California were blindsided by this trademarking practice, and that could easily happen in another state,” said Assemblyman Cooley. “I am urging Legislators around the country to introduce this bill in their legislature to reinforce that concessionaire company behavior of this type is unacceptable. If more states adopt this rule it may help us get a satisfactory result in Yosemite.”

Web report regarding the California Heritage Protection Act: