Special Use Permits
A Special Use Permit is a short-term activity that takes place in a park area and provides a benefit to an individual, group, or organization, rather than the public at large. The National Park Service may permit a special park use providing the activity will not cause derogation of the park's resources or values, visitor experiences, or the purpose for which the park was established. Primary concern will be given to the potential for resource damage and to anticipated disruption of normal public use.
A basic permit is required for, but is not limited to: special events, wedding ceremonies, festivals, cultural programs, contractor/public utility work, and displays. There are two types of applications we use for specific requests. For basic requests, you may apply using our short form. For any other type of request please use our long form. Instructions on how to submit these forms are listed on the application. Depending on the size and type of event, liability insurance may be required. Applications are also available by contacting the park at the contact links below.
Commercial Use Authorizations
A commercial use authorization is defined as any activities, services, agreements, or anything offered to park visitors and/or the general public for recreational purposes which uses park resources or is undertaken for or results in compensation, monetary gain, benefit, or profit to an individual, organization, or corporation, whether or not such entity is organized for purposes recognized as non-profit under local, state, or federal law.
To apply, please fill out a CUA application with as much information as possible, including dates and times of the requested event. A CUA holder must provide commercial liability insurance as part of the application. Applications are available by contacting the Special Park Use Coordinator at the contact information below. Please also note that any food being sold on NPS property requires a valid/current "ServSafe" certificate as well as a copy of a valid and current food license.
Right of Way Permits
The National Park Service has specific Department-wide guidelines on Right of Way Permits. Please refer to the link for rules, regulations, and applications: Right-of-Way Permit (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
Lands of the United States were set aside by Congress, Executive Order, or otherwise acquired in order to conserve and protect areas of untold beauty and grandeur, historical importance, and uniqueness for future generations. The tradition of capturing images of these special places started with explorers who traveled with paint and canvas or primitive photo apparatus. It was the sharing of these images that led to the designation of these areas as national parks and monuments. Visitors to national parks today continue to memorialize their visits through filming and photography.
Effective October 28, 2022, the National Park Service (NPS) has rescinded interim guidance that was in place during litigation regarding commercial filming and has returned to longstanding laws and regulations governing commercial filming in parks.
Do I need a permit to film?
Federal law requires a permit for all commercial filming, no matter the size of the crew or the type of equipment. The primary focus of the NPS, however, is on commercial filming that has the potential to impact park resources and visitors beyond what occurs from normal visitor use of park areas. Examples of this type of filming are productions that use substantial equipment such as sets and lighting, productions with crews and personnel that exceed 5 people, and filming in closed areas, wilderness areas, or in locations that would create conflicts with other visitors or harm sensitive resources. All filmers, no matter the size, must comply with all rules that apply in park areas, just like other visitors.
Federal law requires the NPS to recover its administrative costs for commercial filming and still photography activities that require a permit. Cost recovery includes an application fee and any additional charges to cover the costs incurred by the NPS in processing your request and monitoring your permit. This amount will vary depending on the park and the size and complexity of the permitted activities. The application fee must be submitted with your application.
In addition, Federal law also requires the NPS to collect a location fee that provides a fair return to the United States for the use of park lands for commercial filming and for still photography requires a permit. The NPS uses the following fee schedule for filming:
When is a permit needed?
In most cases, still photography does not require a permit. A permit is required for still photography only when:
A “model” means a person or object that serves as the subject for still photography for the purpose of promoting the sale or use of a product or service. Models include, but are not limited to, individuals, animals, or inanimate objects, such as vehicles, boats, articles of clothing, and food and beverage products. Portrait subjects, such as wedding parties and high school graduates, are not considered models.
Other permit requirements for Commercial Filming or Photography?
You will be required to obtain liability insurance naming the United States as additionally insured in an amount commensurate with the risk posed to park resources by your proposed activity. You may also be asked to post a bond to ensure the payment of all charges and fees and the restoration of the area if necessary.
All SUP and CUA requests are subject to a review process to ensure compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This review period is the opportunity for all departments to consider potential impacts and staff needs prior to permitting a special use request. Once an application is submitted, most special uses take 30 days for review. Permits could require a much longer review period, especially if the proposal is new or for a very large event, so please plan accordingly. If you have questions or concerns, contact us.
Large events and commercial activities require a certificate of general liability insurance. Contact the Special Park Uses Coordinator for questions related to liability insurance.
Large events may trigger the need for the Permittee to post a refundable performance (damage) bond. The amount of the bond will be equivalent to the estimated cost to the NPS for clean-up, repair or rehab of resources that could potentially be impacted by the permit activities. At the conclusion of the permit, the bond will be returned to the Permittee after costs of clean-up, repair, or rehabilitation are deducted.
Limits to the area, type, duration, and scope of park use are codified in Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations, where general park regulations may be found, and within the Superintendent's Compendium, where park-specific regulations are posted.
Freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly are Constitutional Rights. However, the courts have recognized that activities associated with the exercise of these rights may be reasonably regulated to protect park resources. Therefore, all First Amendment activities with over 25 participants require special use permits, and the park may regulate the time, place, and manner in which they are conducted. First Amendment activities with less than 25 participants who utilize designated areas (see the shaded areas) do not require a permit. First Amendment permit requests will be processed within two business days. Some examples of special events that require permits include:
Also, review the Superintendent's Compendium for more details concerning park regulations.
The permit office cannot accept credit cards. All permit applications must be paid by checks, cashier checks, or money orders made payable to "National Park Service." Final payment cost will be determined after we receive your permit application. Below are some of the fees you may incur.
The NPS will consider requests and process permit applications in a timely manner. Processing times will vary depending on the complexity of the proposed activity. Permit applications may be e-mailed to the Permits Coordinator or mailed to:
Attn: Permits Coordinator
150 S. Washington Ave.
Scranton, PA 18503
Mail applications and application fee payments to:
Looking to coordinate a group trip (10 people or more) to Steamtown National Historic Site? Send us an e-mail with some basic information to help start the planning process:
NOTE: Sending an e-mail does not automatically approve your request.
When train rides are available, tickets are non-refundable unless an event is cancelled by park management (equipment malfunction, inclement weather, etc). In the event you miss your short train ride, either the Scranton Limited or Caboose Experience, we can put you aboard the next ride as long as its not sold out or was the last train of the day.
Tickets for Train Rides
Steamtown NHS train rides resume for the season on Thursday, May 11, 2023! If you or your group are planning to include train rides as part of your visit, here's how you can plan ahead and prepare:
NOTE: Tickets for our short train rides, the Scranton Limited and Caboose Experience, are not available for advance purchase online. These tickets are available on-site and must be purchased by credit card the day of your visit.
Short Train Rides
Last updated: October 27, 2023