This trademark fight at Yosemite could mean bizarre things for our national parks.

Yosemite National Park is home to the sprawling, beautiful Ahwahnee Hotel, a historic lodging site, built in 1927 and declared a national landmark in 1987.

The Ahwahnee Hotel's interior was used as reference for Stanley Kubrick's classic film "The Shining." I'm guessing Kubrick liked how the hallways were just wide enough for two creepy twin girls, and how the doors failed to deflect axes. Photo via Joeyp3413/Wikimedia Commons.


But before you start packing your suitcase and pull up "Ahwahnee Hotel" on your travel-deal-website-of-choice to book reservations, there's something you should know:

After 90 years, the Ahwahnee Hotel has a new name — and it's disappointingly generic.

The Ahwahnee Hotel is now The Majestic Yosemite Hotel — and it's not the only Yosemite site to have recently undergone an underwhelming renaming.

Curry Village, a small lodging town in the valley near the famous Half Dome rock formation, is now known as Half Dome Village.

The Wawona Hotel, which was built in 1876, is now known as Big Trees Lodge.

Basically, the original and historic names of many locations in Yosemite have been changed to reflect the jumble of keywords you'd enter in Google if you forgot their real names.

"You know ... that lodge with the big trees. The big trees lodge?" Photo via Rennett Stowe/Wikimedia Commons.

So why all the sudden boring name changes?

If you've ever eaten at a national park (that is, eaten something besides the squished sandwich and granola bar in your backpack), you may have noticed that much of the food is provided by private companies, not the government.

Which, in theory, is pretty cool.

It allows the parks to make money by selling retail and dining space, and park visitors get to come back from their hikes to enjoy perfectly seared, bone-in rib eyes.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

Everyone wins.

Right?

Wrong. It turns out that when a company takes over selling food and providing lodging at a national park, sometimes they also get ownership of the historic names of those locations.

Until recently, concession sites at Yosemite were handled by a company called Delaware North, a multibillion-dollar organization that claims to be "one of the largest hospitality management companies serving national and state parks."

The dining hall at Ahwahnee — I mean, The Majestic Yosemite Hotel. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Delaware North took over concessions at Yosemite in 1993, and when it did, according to company spokeswoman Lisa Cesaro, it also had to purchase "the assets of the previous concessionaire, including its intellectual property at a cost of $115 million in today’s dollars."

In plain-speak, that means that the rights to names like "Ahwahnee" and "Wawona" were part of the package Delaware North purchased.

In 2015, Delaware North lost a $2 billion bid to renew its contract with Yosemite — and this is where things got sticky for the names of Yosemite's iconic landmarks.

Delaware North had to hand concession rights over to another company called Aramark. Delaware North also demanded to be paid back for the names it bought, asking for $51 million. The government thought that price was a "gross exaggeration" and valued the names at $3.5 million.

That conflict is still settling. But Delaware North has essentially said that while it still wants the $51 million, the National Park Service can keep the names the same ... for now.

The National Park Service then, for some reason (presumably to minimize damages), went ahead and changed all the names in Yosemite anyway.

The NPS even spent an estimated $1.7 million on temporary new signs in the process:

Photo by Rory Appleton/The Fresno Bee via AP, File.

The National Park Service may ultimately win the names back. But for now, staying at the Ahwahnee Hotel or Curry Village is a thing of the past.

To make things even more complicated, Delaware North has also made a trademark claim on the name "Yosemite National Park" itself — any time it appears on park merchandise.

In fact, T-shirts bearing the name "Yosemite National Park" have already been removed from some of the park's gift shops.

This is a huge deal! Half the reason to go to a national park is to get a hoodie with the name of the park on it. That way you can tell your awesome hiking story every time someone asks about it.

Plus ... gorgeous postcards like this one?

Photo via Bev Sykes/Flickr.

Those would be removed from stores as well. If Delaware North's trademark claim is upheld, you wouldn't even be able to mail-brag about your sweet hiking trip to your friends back home in Nebraska.

Worse yet, the National Park Service might have to start selling postcards at national park locations featuring their new, way-too-on-the-nose, generic park names — like There Are Waterfalls Here National Park or The Big One in California National Park.

In fact, if companies keep trying to hustle the National Park System out of naming rights, soon we may all be getting postcards from parks with slightly different names:

Like this one in Arizona.

Formerly known as The Grand Canyon. Image (altered) via iStock.

Or this one, from South Dakota.

Formerly known as Mount Rushmore. Image (altered) via iStock.

Or from this famous park in Wyoming.

Formerly known as Yellowstone's Old Faithful. Image (altered) via iStock.

So what's the big deal? They're just names, right?

Besides being lodged into the memories of millions of families who've passed through the park in the past 90 years, the names of Yosemite's historic sites have significant cultural value.

Yosemite Valley circa 1870. Photo by Carleton E. Watkins/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

"Ahwahnee," which means "big mouth," is the Native American name for Yosemite's central valley. "Wawona" is thought to be an onomatopoeia for the sound of the great horned owl — believed to be a guardian spirit of the area.

Changing the names of these places erases their history; those names have been around way longer than the National Park System.

Most of all, though, this is outrageous because the national parks shouldn't belong to companies. They belong to the people.

The very act that created the National Park Service stipulates that the care and conservation of the parks and wildlife therein is for the enjoyment of people and future generations.

We visit national parks with our families. We create memories there and share pictures on Instagram to get the most Likes. We pay for the upkeep and survival of the parks with our tax dollars. We make laws to protect them and protest when they're in danger. They're ours.

They should belong to all of us.

Yosemite National Park. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

Filmmaker Ken Burns once called the National Park System "America's best idea," which is saying a lot ... after all, this is the country that invented the space shuttle, the cheeseburger, and christened the sacred marriage of Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin Robbins in stores across the country.

But Great Ideas are what America does.

It's definitely not a Great Idea™ to have the names of our historic and beautiful national parks wrapped up in a petty intellectual property battle.

That's not what our national parks are here for.

They're for loving, cherishing, and gazing up at views like this:

Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images.

The names of the places we visit are a key factor in the lifelong memories we create there. No company should be able to take that away.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

This article originally appeared on 12.02.19


Just imagine being an 11-year-old boy who's been shuffled through the foster care system. No forever home. No forever family. No idea where you'll be living or who will take care of you in the near future.

Then, a loving couple takes you under their care and chooses to love you forever.

What could one be more thankful for?

That's why when a fifth grader at Deerfield Elementary School in Cedar Hills, Utah was asked by his substitute teacher what he's thankful for this Thanksgiving, he said finally being adopted by his two dads.

via OD Action / Twitter

To the child's shock, the teacher replied, "that's nothing to be thankful for," and then went on a rant in front of 30 students saying that "two men living together is a sin" and "homosexuality is wrong."

While the boy sat there embarrassed, three girls in the class stood up for him by walking out of the room to tell the principal. Shortly after, the substitute was then escorted out of the building.

While on her way out she scolded the boy, saying it was his fault she was removed.

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One of the boy's parents-to-be is Louis van Amstel, is a former dancer on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." "It's absolutely ridiculous and horrible what she did," he told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We were livid. It's 2019 and this is a public school."

The boy told his parents-to-be he didn't speak up in the classroom because their final adoption hearing is December 19 and he didn't want to do anything that would interfere.

He had already been through two failed adoptions and didn't want it to happen again.

via Loren Javier / Flickr

A spokesperson for the Alpine School District didn't go into detail about the situation but praised the students who spoke out.

"Fellow students saw a need, and they were able to offer support," David Stephenson said. "It's awesome what happened as far as those girls coming forward."

RELATED: A homophobic ad was placed next to a pizza shop. They messed with the wrong place.

He also said that "appropriate action has been taken" with the substitute teacher.

"We are concerned about any reports of inappropriate behavior and take these matters very seriously," Kelly Services, the school the contracts out substitute teachers for the district, said in a statement. "We conduct business based on the highest standards of integrity, quality, and professional excellence. We're looking into this situation."

After the incident made the news, the soon-to-be adoptive parents' home was covered in paper hearts that said, "We love you" and "We support you."

Religion is supposed to make us better people.

But what have here is clearly a situation where a woman's judgement about what is good and right was clouded by bigoted dogma. She was more bothered by the idea of two men loving each other than the act of pure love they committed when choosing to adopt a child.