Commercial Use Authorizations

On May 26, 2020, the National Park Service announced it will not standardize the CUA requirement for road-based commercial tours and will not raise commercial tour entrance fees from current rates.

What is a Commercial Use Authorization?

A commercial use authorization (CUA) is a business permit with the National Park Service that authorizes an individual, group, company, or other for-profit entity to conduct commercial activities and provide specific visitor services within a national park area.

When is a CUA required?

A CUA is required if you provide any goods, activities, services, agreements, or other function for members, clients, or the public that

  • take place at least in part on lands managed by the National Park Service;
  • use park resources; and
  • result in compensation, monetary gain, benefit, or profit.

What are the general conditions for the issuance of a CUA?

CUAs are only issued for commercial activities and visitor services that

  • will have minimal impact on the park areas resources and values;
  • are consistent with the purposes for which the park area was established; and
  • are consistent with all applicable park area management plans, policies, and regulations.

How do I apply for a CUA?

A Commercial Use Authorization form should be completed and submitted to the park.

Applications must be submitted with all required documentation and the non-refundable $200.00 application fee. is the preferred payment method.

For those applicants submitting a CUA application for the first time, it is recommended that you submit your application three to four months in advance of your proposed operating season. For example, applications should be submitted by February if you wish to operate in the Lakeshore beginning in May.

For current CUA holders, applications to renew your permit may be submitted between October 1 and March 31. Be sure to allow two to three months before you operating season begins for processing.

CUA’s are not automatically renewed. A new application must be submitted each year.

How are permits issued?

Once received the park evaluates each application and if it is determined that the proposed business service supports or complements the Lakeshore's mission and goals, a draft CUA will be sent to the applicant.

Applicants should review the terms and conditions of the draft CUA, and then sign and return it to the park for an authorizing signature.

The CUA application process is not complete until the applicant has received a copy of their approved permit signed by the Superintendent or his/her designee.

CUA’s will not be issued until all required documents and the application fee are received.

When does my CUA expire?

All CUAs are issued for the calendar year and will expire on December 31.

What do I need to know about operating in the park?

Once issued, the employees of an organization who enter the National Lakeshore to conduct business under a CUA are exempt from the Lakeshore entrance fee.

Employees of CUA holders must carry a copy of their CUA when entering the park.

Clients are required to pay the entrance fee. For a current list of fees, visit Fees & Reservations.

A CUA does not allow a CUA holder exclusive rights to use an area or facility and the commercial activity must not interfere with the use of the park by other visitors.

If interested, arrangements can be made for your business to sell park entrance passes as a service to your customers. If you have any questions about the Park Entrance Pass Program, please contact the Fee Manager at 231-326-4730.

Businesses and individuals may not conduct commercial activities in the park without a valid CUA or in a manner inconsistent with the terms of the CUA.

CUA holders must submit a mandatory annual CUA report at the end of the operating season.

What is the cost of a CUA?

Application Fee: A $200 non-refundable application fee is due each year when your application is submitted.

Annual Market Price Fee: A management fee, based on a percentage of annual gross receipts, is due at the end of each year when the annual report is submitted.

The following fee structure will apply.

Market Price Fee (% of gross receipts earned from park-based operations)

  • less than $250,000.00: 3% of gross receipts
  • $250,00.00 to $500,000.00: 4% of gross receipts
  • more than $500,000.00: 5% of gross receipts

If the amount due is greater than the $200 application fee, the CUA holder should deduct the application fee from the percent of gross receipts before remitting at the end of the season, so as not to exceed the market price.

For more information e-mail or call (231) 326-4741.

Last updated: April 14, 2021

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