Yosemite National Park has gone through a lot of changes in the last few years.
First, the trademark battle over some beloved and historic park names, and now a proposed Starbucks in the Yosemite Valley Lodge food court.
Park lovers are not happy about it.
“It doesn’t even matter which corporation it is. I go there because it’s away, it’s apart, it’s different from everywhere else,” said Joe Armstrong.
Armstrong has climbed Half Dome 11 times and says Yosemite is one of his favorite places on Earth. He learned about the proposed Starbucks from a Change.org petition that has been making the rounds on the internet and already has over 10,000 signatures. He signed because he likes the rustic charm of the national park experience, free from corporate brands.
“These are the places without billboards and without computer screens and without corporate trademark logos,” Armstrong said. “So I think it’s essential that we maintain these places where we go to find respite, and recharge, and get away from what we see in our workaday lives.”
The park’s new concessionaire, Aramark, said the petition mischaracterizes what’s happening. The company wants to update existing structures with a more modern look, not build anything new or mount fancy neon signs.
“What we’re looking to do is create an experience that more accurately reflects and resonates with today’s visitor to Yosemite National Park and provide them with a variety of offerings and brands that we believe they’ll find enjoyable,” said David Freireich, an Aramark spokesman. He said many travelers to Yosemite come from outside the U.S., and Starbucks is an internationally recognized brand.
Armstrong can see how visitors might like a nice cup of coffee after a chilly night around the campfire, but he still feels burned by the trademark dispute that has changed the Ahwahnee to the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, and Curry Village to Half Dome Village.
Armstrong sees the legal battle between the federal government and two large corporations that has been grinding on since March 2016 as a warning about the dangers of putting too much in the hands of corporations. When it comes to the park’s coffee offerings, he’d rather go with the little guy.
“I am sure that any number of local, small places in the area would be happy to put a coffee stand in there, and that benefits everyone in a different way,” Armstrong said.