Special Use Permits
Special events range from company picnics and family reunions to weddings, races/marathons, filming, demos/training, reserved group camping, group/guided climbing and establishment of new climbing route requests.
Permits need time to be evaluated, processed, completed, and signed by both parties. Please allow at least two weeks (10 business days) for processing.
How do I schedule my event or activity?
The parks accommodate both regular park visitors and special events or group activities at the same time by such means as to avoid the scheduling of more than one event per day for each site with the exception of group climbing. Most events and activities are scheduled during daytime hours with the exception of group camping and some races/marathons. Please contact the park as far in advance as possible to request a park area for a special event or activity. Requests are taken first come, first served. To inquire about the necessity for a Special Use Permit or to reserve a date for your event, contact the office of the Program Specialist for Commercial/Special Park Uses at 304-465-6517.
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What costs are involved?
The authority for the NPS to recover and retain costs associated with managing special park uses is found at 16 U.S.C. 3a. The NPS is required to recover all costs related to special park use permits (31 U.S.C. 9701). Recoverable costs include site preparation, use, restoration costs, utility costs, event personnel costs and supplies and materials. The NPS is also required to recover the costs of administering the permit, providing planning assistance and costs associated with preliminary consideration of proposed events.
The event producer/sponsor may be required to post a bond to assure compliance with permit conditions as well as site restoration and clean-up after the event. The bond is refundable if all permit conditions are met.
The cost for using an NPS site varies with the complexity of the activity. Factors include the number of people involved, whether there will be food and beverage service, and the amount of time you will be on-site, including deliveries and pick-ups, preparation and clean-up. You can get a rough estimate of the costs by describing the event to the park’s Program Specialist and completing an Application for Special Use Permit, providing complete details of your proposed event. Exact costs will be calculated based on your application. Modifications to your plans may impact the permit costs.
When you submit your written application, you will pay a non-refundable application/administrative charge. The cost recovery/monitoring charge is due prior to approval of the permit. If any additional costs are incurred or if you fail to complete cleanup after the event, you will be billed at the conclusion of the event.
What are some events that may or will require a Special Use Permit?
- Non-guided group climbing at designated climbing areas for non-commercial groups of 10 or more (guided group climbing requires a permit regardless of group size).
- Establish new/update existing climbing anchor route.
- Group camping at Burnwood or Meadow Creek (group camping is available for groups of 8 or more people)
- Horseback riding on designated horse trails for non-commercial organized groups of 22 or more
- Tours in areas of the parks for non-commercial organized groups of 22 or more
- Events which involve staging support personnel in a park area
- Events which charge a fee for participation (may be subject to a Commercial Use Authorization)
- Demos/training sessions (land and water-based) Races and/or marathons (land and water-based)
- First Amendment activities
- Agricultural Use
- Rights-of-Way (ROW): Download the ROW Application
Examples of some activities for which a Special Use Permit is required include, but are not limited to, the following along with the designated Application/Administrative Charge:
Activity - Application/Administrative Charge
Download the Special Use Permit application (short form)
Download the Special Use Permit application (long form).
In addition, the park is required to recover any operational costs caused by your activity once the permit has been issued. Costs will be charged at the rate of $50.00 per hour per employee if monitoring of your event is determined to be necessary.
Groups must schedule each event in advance by contacting the park’s Program Specialist at 304-465-6517.
*Shelter reservations at Grandview are now being processed through Recreation.gov, an online reservation system. All reservations for shelters at Grandview are reservable online at www.recreation.gov or by calling the National Recreation Reservation Service at 877-444-6777.
Please note some restrictions apply to wedding ceremonies at overlook areas of the parks. Wedding ceremonies must not interfere with normal visitation of the overlooks, and park visitors cannot be denied access during the ceremony. With the exception of the North Grandview Overlook, wedding ceremonies at park overlook/boardwalk areas will be limited to a total of 25 participants, including the wedding party, for a maximum of 30 minutes for the ceremony and photographs. At the North Grandview Overlook, wedding ceremonies will be limited to a total of 15 participants for a maximum of 30 minutes. During high visitation times from April 1 through October 31, it may be a requirement to schedule wedding ceremonies at overlooks/boardwalks to occur before 11:00 AM. Decorations and the showering of the wedding couple with rice, birdseed, confetti, and bubbles are prohibited, as well as the release of balloons or birds are not allowed.
How is a site and date reserved?
First, visit the park to see which site meets your needs. Then call the office of the Program Specialist for Commercial/Special Park Uses at 304-465-6517 to see if the site is available for your preferred date. If it is and your activity is an appropriate activity to occur on park lands, we will send you the application and hold the date for 10 working days to allow you time to complete the application and send it to us along with the non-refundable application/administrative charge. If the application and administrative charge are not returned within 10 work days (two weeks), the site and date are released for other requests.
Once the completed Application for Special Use Permit is received by the park, with all details of requests for the event provided, the park requires at least ten (10) business days for reviewing and processing the request. Based on the information in your application, we will write the permit and calculate the cost recovery permit costs and send to you for review and signature. You will have 10 working days (two weeks) to review and sign the permit and return it, along with the balance of the permit costs (additional administrative and/or monitoring charges). Once we have received the signed permit, we will return a copy of the approved permit to you.
Approximately two weeks before the actual event, you should contact the Program Specialist at 304-465-6517 for a pre-event review. If you have made modifications in your event plans, we will review the permit and cost calculation and make any needed adjustments.
Refunds are not issued due to rain.
Are there any other requirements?
Some events require liability insurance from your own insurance company. The amount, like the cost, is related to complex events with a higher potential for safety issues. For family events, the liability insurance can be based on homeowner’s (not renter’s) insurance. We will provide you with information for your insurance agent. The permittee must meet all state, county and local agency requirements for permits, licenses and business operations. All food and beverage service must meet public health standards.
IRS taxpayer identification number for the permittee/organization is required to be provided on the permit application. The NPS requires prior approval of out-of-park advertising for events to occur on NPS lands. The permittee shall not use advertising that attempts to portray them as agents of the National Park Service, or to use NPS symbols, seals, or other items of identity. You are expected to provide event staff to make your event run smoothly without interfering with other park visitors. You will need to designate event staff for site clean-up and dispose of all trash in receptacles or dumpsters. You may also need to designate an individual to monitoring event parking.
Depending on the complexity of your event, we may assign an NPS monitor to be on-site during your event.
Are alcoholic beverages allowed?
Alcoholic beverages are prohibited for most activities under Special Use Permit. Please contact the park’s Program Specialist at 304-465-6517 to determine if alcoholic beverages are allowed. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited at the Dunglen, Thayer and Grandview areas of New River Gorge National Park and Preserve and all areas within the Bluestone National Scenic River.
What is not allowed at special events or group activities?
- Commercial advertising is prohibited, including hanging or posting signs, banners and fliers
- Cutting, destroying, digging, removing or possessing any tree, shrub, or other plant
- Digging holes, moving rocks, or constructing platforms or structures
- Affixing anything to trees, bushes or structures
- Loud audio devices and fireworks
- Helium or water balloons
- Wading pools or dunk tank
- Mechanical rides, bounce houses, or petting zoos
- Activities or games that involve food such as egg toss, throwing rice or birdseed
- Any form of gambling or gambling devices (including raffles or lotteries)
- Firearms or weapons
- Open fires unless in designated fire ring
- Collection of fees or donations
- Smoking in buildings, on boardwalks or in vegetated areas
- Writing on or discoloring any natural feature or structure
- Off-road vehicle use
- Pets must be secured on a leash not to exceed six feet
- Any proposed sales of goods or services on park lands during special events are subject to the issuance of a Commercial Use Authorization.
- Launching of drones is not permitted from park lands,
Are permits required for festivals and/or fundraisers?
Yes, and the festival must be open to the public and have a central theme or goal related to park values. The event may include a mixture of entertainment, food, activities, and informational booths. Although a festival may be sponsored by a non-profit organization, there may be commercial elements to the event, such as entrance fee, participation fees, sale of food and beverages, or sale of festival-related items, which are subject to the issuance of a Commercial Use Authorization. Events which are held strictly for profit or do not relate to NPS values and purposes are not appropriate to be held inside the park.
- Picnic shelter reservations at Burnwood, Dunglen and Grandview
- Organized hiking event at designated hiking areas for non-commercial organized groups of 22 or more
- Organized biking event at designated biking areas for non-commercial organized groups of 22 or more
It is important that the site selected for a festival is appropriate for the level and type of activities. Park areas may not be closed to other visitors during festivals or fundraisers. Trails and other facilities will remain open. The collection of fees associated with the event is prohibited on park lands.
Are permits required for First Amendment activities?
Yes, if requesting park area other than designated First Amendment area or for groups consisting of more than 25 participants. Freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly are rights protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. People may exercise these rights in national parks, but the NPS still retains its responsibility to protect park resources and prevent conflict among park visitors. Therefore, the NPS establishes guidelines under a Special Use Permit for setting the time, place and manner (number of participants, use of facilities and type of equipment) for the events to occur.
By law, the NPS has established places in parks where First Amendment activities can be accommodated. These areas are visible to the general visiting public without interfering with the public’s enjoyment of the park. These areas are identified in the Superintendent’s Compendium. While the NPS regulates aspects of the activity to protect park resources, it never regulates the content of the message. Permits are issued for First Amendment activities, but there are no costs, and no insurance is required for the activities. All requests for similar activities are treated equally. As long as permit criteria and requirements are met, no group wishing to assemble lawfully will be discriminated against or denied the right of assembly.
Check the First Amendment Area Maps page to see the locations of designated First Ammendment areas.
Types of First Amendment activities may include:
- Religious services or ceremonies
- Press conferences
- Press coverage of breaking news
- Voter registration
- Collecting signatures on petitions or voter initiatives
- Public demonstrations, picketing, assembly or rally for expressing opinion and view
- Sale or distribution of printed material related to free expression of opinion
Types of activities that are NOT covered by the First Amendment:
- Church picnic or social gathering
- Wedding ceremonies or receptions
- Political fundraiser or other invitation-only political activity or event
- Solicitation of donations
- Community parades, athletics or sporting events
- Sale of message-bearing clothing, arts and crafts, or similar merchandise
Some of these activities may be accommodated through a Special Use Permit for which cost recovery may be charged.
When is a filming permit required?
Filming and commercial activities – whether commercial or noncommercial – will be allowed provided that activities do not cause unacceptable impacts to park resources or public use. All commercial filming requires a permit. Commercial filming is defined as digital or film recording of a visual image or sound recording by a person, business, or other entity for a market audience, such as for a documentary, television of feature film, advertisement, or similar project. It does not include news coverage or visitor use.
Still photography activities, whether commercial or noncommercial, require a permit when: (a) the activity takes place at locations(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed; or (b) the activity uses model(s), set(s), or prop(s) that are not a part of the location’s natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities; or (c) the park would incur additional administrative costs to monitor the activity; of (d) the park needs to provide management and oversight to (1) avoid impairment or incompatible use of the resources and values of the park, or (2) limit resource damage, or (3) minimize health or safety risks to the visiting public. News coverage does not require a permit, for either filming or still photography, but is subject to time, place, and manner restrictions, if warranted, to maintain order and ensure the safety of the public and media, and to protect natural and cultural resources.
All commercial filming and still photography activities requiring a permit are subject to cost recovery charges and a location fee. No waivers are allowed. Cost recovery charges for all commercial and still photography permits will include costs incurred in receiving the request/application, reviewing the application, writing the permit, monitoring the activity, providing protection services, restoring park areas, or otherwise supporting the filming or photography activities. This application/administrative cost recovery charges $100.00. Location fees are determined by the type of activity (commercial filming versus still photography), and the number of people on park lands associated with the permitted activity. Location fees are calculated per day and are based on the following:schedule:
|| Commercial/ Filming/Videos
|1-2 people with camera and tripod
only, working in areas open to the public.
|| 3 – 10 people $150.00/day
||3 – 10 people $50.00/day
|| 11 – 30 people $250.00/day
|| 11 – 30 people $150.00/day
|| 31 – 49 people $500.00/day
|| Over 30 people $250.00/day
|| Over 50 people $750.00/day
Liability insurance will be required with the United States of America named as Additional Insured. In some circumstances, posting of a bond may be required.
The NPS will encourage and may actively assist filming and photography activities that promote public understanding and appreciation of the park or the national park system. NPS employees, while on duty or in uniform, will not be employed by filming permittees. Identifiable NPS equipment, uniforms, or insignia must not be portrayed in any way that would imply NPS endorsement of a product or service.
If you are uncertain whether your project requires a permit or not, contact the park’s Program Specialist at 304-465-6517 for additional information. If you already know that your project does not require a permit, please call the office to check the permit schedule in order to avoid conflicts with other activities. If your project does require a permit, please contact the Program Specialist as far in advance as possible to request and complete a film permit application. Please note that, after the park receives your completed Application for Commercial Filming/Still Photography Permit, the park requires at least ten (10) business days for reviewing and processing the request.