Special Use Permits for Activities at Whitman Mission National Historic Site

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What is Considered a Special Use and Why Does it Need a Permit?

Most special events and activities held in the park require a special use permit. Permits allow the park to determine the impact of the activity on park values and resources. Please note that there are usage limits for the number of people and vehicles for any special activity.

A special park use is defined as a short-term activity that takes place in a park area, and that:

  1. Provides a benefit to an individual, group or organization rather than the public at large
  2. Requires written authorization and some degree of management control from the National Park Service (NPS) in order to protect park resources and the public interest
  3. Is not prohibited by law or regulation
  4. Is not initiated, sponsored, or conducted by the NPS
  5. Is not managed under a concession contract, a recreation activity for which the NPS charges a fee, or a lease

The National Park Service may permit a special park use if the proposed activity will not:

  1. Cause injury, damage or impairments to park resources
  2. Be contrary to the park’s purpose for which the park was established, and the mission of the NPS
  3. Unreasonably impair the atmosphere of peace and tranquility maintained in wilderness, natural, historic, or commemorative locations within the park
  4. Interfere with visitor use, access, and programs
  5. Interfere with park management or administration
  6. Interfere with concession operations or other public facilities
  7. Present a clear and present danger to public health and safety

Who Needs a Permit?

Special park uses include a wide range of activities such as organizational special events, religious gatherings, ceremonies, large group activities (over 25 participants), camps or rendezvous. A commercial film permit is required for any individual, business, or organization (including nonprofit groups and educational institutions) filming for a market audience or receiving compensation associated with footage or recordings made in the park. It is the responsibility of the activity planner to inquire about permits. If you are still unsure if you need a permit e-mail the park.

The following lists outline specific situations that require permits for filming and still photography:

Filming:

  • Commercial advertisements, feature films, entertainment broadcasts, documentaries, promotional or educational films (including non-profit and student projects)
  • Filming for stock footage (regardless of equipment)
  • Time-lapse photography if the final sequence will be used in a motion picture format for commercial purposes
  • Sound recording projects that use more than handheld equipment or require oversight by park staff
  • Use of large or unusual equipment, even for non-commercial purposes if activities warrant oversight by park staff

Commercial filming requires a permit and is subject to a location fee and cost recovery charges.

Still Photography:

  • Commercial still photography using models, props, sets, lighting, or other specialized equipment

  • Use of large or unusual equipment, even for non-commercial purposes if activities warrant oversight by park staff
  • Some wedding portrait photography (all other portrait photography requires a Commercial Use Authorization)

Exemptions

The following cases do not require a commercial film permit

  • Visitors filming or taking pictures intended for their personal use and enjoyment. Special requests or use of large or unusual equipment may require permitting even if it is for personal use
  • Credentialed news organizations documenting an event that cannot be covered at any other time or location

First Amendment Activities

Freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly are rights protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, and in accordance with the Code of Federal Regulation. People may exercise these rights in national parks, but the National Park Service still retains its responsibility to protect park resources and prevent impacts to park visitors. A first amendment permit is not required for groups of 25 individuals, or less, conducting first amendment activities in the park’s designated first amendment areas. There are several different first amendment areas designated in the park. Groups of 25, or more, or groups desiring to reserve designated areas in advance, require a permit. A first amendment permit will not be issued for more than 14 days. Applicants will be required to reapply for additional permits. Unless permitted, the designated areas are first-come, first-served.
Types of activities not considered first amendment include, but are not limited to:

  • Church picnic or social gathering

  • Wedding ceremonies or receptions

  • Political fund raiser 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

Permit Application Process

To apply for a special use permit, submit an application by email, mail, or drop it off at the park visitor center. You can request an application by contacting the park. An application can be submitted no more than twelve (12) months in advance and at least 30 days prior to the date of the planned event. When filling out the application ensure that all questions are answered as accurately and completely as possible. This will assist the park in determining the appropriateness of the planned activities. Applications should not be altered in any way and permits cannot be processed until we receive your original application. Applications are considered in the order they are received.

The information on the Application for Special Use Permit will assist us in accommodating your request, and the Special Use Permit will provide an avenue for communicating any special concerns or conditions regarding your use of the area that you have requested. The permit also serves as documentation of our agreement regarding the terms and conditions under which the special use of the park will be approved. When your request is approved a Special Use Permit will be mailed to you for signature. The permit must be returned to the park within 10 business days and is not authorized until the park superintendent has signed the permit. Failure to return the permit may result in the cancellation of your event at the park. Before any permit will be granted, consideration will be given to potential park resource impacts, as well as impacts to visitor use, access to park sites, or park administration.

Application Fees

There is no application fee or fee for a special use permit. However, cost recovery can be charged for activities that require a National Park Service monitor. For commercial filming and still photography (see exemptions) cost recovery and location fees are mandated and cannot be waived.

Additional Reminders

  • Site use is on a first-requested, first-served basis

  • The permit does not allow your event to prohibit other park visitors from using your chosen location, nor does it guarantee you a specific site

  • Activities may not interfere with normal visitor use of the park; therefore, areas will not be closed to public access during the event

  • The ceremony permit does not override current closures. If there are closures due to wildlife, weather, or other causes, please contact our office immediately to revise the permitted location or date. If we know about the closure in advance, we will contact the permit holder

  • Paid photographers must contact our office for additional guidance and requirements
  • All participants associated with a Special Park Use event, such as a wedding, must observe and comply with all park regulations

If you have additional questions regarding special event activities at Whitman Mission National Historic Site or would like to obtain an application you can contact the special use permits coordinator at 208-843-7026 or by email.

Last updated: April 1, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

328 Whitman Mission Road
Walla Walla, WA 99362

Phone:

(509) 522-6360

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