Yosemite Transition

As neglected as this space is from time to time, I thought it would be remiss not to at least mention the big changes that have been happening all around me this month.

On March 1, Aramark took over the Yosemite concession contract, and that ushered in a new cultural era for the park.

The public would be most aware of the name changes: The Ahwahnee has become the Yosemite Majestic Hotel. Yosemite Lodge at the Falls has been shortened to Yosemite Valley Lodge. Curry Village is Half Dome Village. Wawona Hotel adopted an old name, Big Trees Lodge, and Badger Pass has been stripped of character and renamed with the functional, if less poetic, Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area. There has been a huge outcry about this, and friends of mine have received threats and have been virtually screamed at by strangers who have only the vaguest idea of what is actually happening. Ultimately, though, I have to agree with Pete who has written about the history of name changes in the park (there have been many), and the endurance of the things that actually matter.

Not neglecting the importance of labels and traditions, I genuinely feel that Yosemite won’t be changed. Have amenities distracted us from what the national park and the land truly are? Rocks and trees, water and seasons, won’t be a whit less wonderful. Jays and oaks won’t care, bears and domes won’t be diminished if we re-label a hotel.

If you’re interested in hearing stories of Yosemite from an amazing naturalist and interpreter/communicator/nice guy, you ought to wander over and check out Pete’s Yosemite Nature Notes blog. On a similar note, the National Park Service is in the process of re-examining the rules governing wilderness use in Yosemite. Now, this is something that will most certainly impact those of us who want to do more in the park than take pictures from the road. Now is the time to pay attention and participate.

On a personal level, the transition has had more of a social impact than anything. Because Aramark didn’t replace all positions within the park, many people who have lived here for years, and sometimes decades, have suddenly found themselves out of a job (like me). But in Yosemite, where employees tend to live in company housing, being out of a job often means being out of a place to live too, and so friends are scattering far and wide and rebuilding entire lives – home, job and community. If you can imagine how disruptive it is for one person to make a major life change, imagine an entire community doing it simultaneously and in multiple dimensions. Even many of the people who have found a way to stay have new employers, new co-workers, new housing and often a slightly different job description to adapt to. It’s been a stressful time, filled with uncertainty, and I’m glad to see things settling back down. In fact, one of the most encouraging reports was from a friend who works at the Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area, who said that it all seems like business as usual, right down to the shouted morning welcome… “Good Morning, Badger Pass!” Ha!

On a personal note, I am so grateful to Delaware North for the opportunity that allows me to work remotely from Yosemite. In spite of derogatory slogans to the contrary, I’ve been impressed with how much Delaware North has cared to try to find creative ways to help people through the transition process when they can.

Begin Chapter Next.