Does the National Park Service consider you a commercial entity?
What are the criteria for the Commercial Use Authorization?
Types of CUAs
What costs are involved?
What is involved in the CUA?
What are some examples of activities which may be permitted under a Commercial Use Authorization?
Commercial Whitewater and Outfitter Licensing
Participant Acknowledgement of Risk Form
Where can I get more information?
Special Use Permits
How do I schedule my event or activity?
What costs are involved
What are some events that may or will require a Special Use Permit?
How is a site and date reserved?
Are there any other requirements?
Are alcoholic beverages allowed?
What is not allowed at special events or group activities?
Are permits required for festivals and/or fundraisers?
Are permits required for First Amendment activities?
When is a filming permit required?
More information about permits and applications
Commercial Use Authorizations
The park will not normally limit the number of organizations that offer similar services or activities. However, the Superintendent will not issue more CUAs than are consistent with the preservation and proper management of park resources and values. If the demand for the activity is overwhelming, the NPS may establish controls. Some examples of controls include designation of areas for commercial use, or establishment of area carrying capacities or a reservation system. If needed, the NPS may also establish procedures to assure a balance between commercial and non-commercial use. Additionally, the park cannot guarantee that park facilities will be available every day for every CUA holder and may establish group size limitations.
Out-of-park services refer to the incidental use of park area resources by operations that provide commercial services originating and terminating outside of the park area. A CUA of this type does not authorize solicitation of customers, sales or payment for commercial services to take place within the park area – all of these activities must occur outside of the park area. Unlike a CUA for in-park services, there is no cap on the annual gross receipts that may be generated by the authorized services under an out-of-park CUA. Compensation or payment for services (even tipping) may not occur on NPS lands.CUAs do not authorize the construction of structures on NPS lands, either temporary or permanent.
If the NPS incurs costs as a result of the authorized activities, the CUA holder is held responsible for reimbursement of those costs. For group use or special events other than authorized on an approved CUA, the CUA holder obtains a Special Use Permit and pays the same application/administrative charge and monitoring costs as other special event permittees.
If the activity has a potential for resource disturbance or damage, the NPS may require the CUA holder to post a refundable performance bond. The bond is set atan amount adequate to cover the cost of cleanup or repair of damage to resources, including personnel or contract costs. At the end of the authorization year, the bond is returned if it was not needed.
If you are interested in obtaining more information for a general Outfitter & Guide License to conduct fishing trips within the parks, please visit: http://www.wvdnr.gov/LEnforce/Guide.shtm.
The Acknowledgement of Risk form is available here: Participant Acknowledgement of Risk Form.
Special Use Permits
Special events range from company picnics and family reunions to weddings, races/marathons, filming, demos/training, reserved group camping, GPS-based activities, group/guided climbing and establishment of new climbing route requests.
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.
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.
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:
Download the Special Use Permit application form.
First, visit the parks 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 15 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 15 work days (three weeks), the site and date are released for other requests.
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.
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, Stone Cliff, Thayer and Grandview areas of New River Gorge National River and all areas within the Bluestone National Scenic River.
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.
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.
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.
Types of First Amendment activities may include:
Types of activities that are NOT covered by the First Amendment:
Some of these activities may be accommodated through a Special Use Permit for which cost recovery may be charged.
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.
*with camera and tripod only, working in areas open to the public
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.
Application for Commercial Filming/Still Photography Permit. (Long Form)
Application for Commercial Filming/Still Photography Permit (Short Form)
Commercial Use Authorization Application
For more information on park permits, contact
Permit Office: 304-465-6517 e-mail us
Park Headquarters: 304-465-0508
Last updated: December 8, 2020