Commercial Photography/Videography Permits in Ottawa County Parks

Special permits for commercial photographers will be available in the fall

Since the beginning of the Parks Commission in 1987 it is against the rules to operate a commercial business from parks and open spaces (Rule 6.1k). This is in place to maintain the ambiance, and so visitors can have the experience at the park that you would expect from a park setting. Additionally, unregulated commercial business on park and open space property is a liability to the Parks Commission and could possibly cost the tax payers dearly if an uninsured business owner causes an injury in the park.

Over the years we have not actively enforced this rule in regards to commercial photography and videography. We have allowed commercial businesses to use county parks for their own profit without ensuring that the County’s liability was covered. Recently, several photographers have taken advantage of that leniency and set up make-shift studios in the parks complete with signage, props, lights, and even a receptionist desk. Others frequently blocked trails, or prevented regular users from accessing parts of the park.

Acknowledging that many residents enjoy having family photos taken on park property, the Parks Commission voted in March 2018 to allow photographers to apply for a special commercial photography/videography permit, instead of simply enforcing the current rule (which would have banned all commercial photography from the parks). A special permit will allow commercial photographers to continue to use our beautiful parks as the backdrop for their work, and also cover the county’s liability, while setting some important ground rules.

Unfortunately, as with any permit process, there are administrative costs and costs to enforce the permit requirement. The fee charged is to cover these costs. The County Parks do not expect to make any revenue off of these permits. The goal of this process is the same goal we have for everything we do: To make the parks a great place for visitors to come and enjoy the outdoors.

Ottawa County Parks will begin accepting and awarding applications for commercial photography in the fall of 2018. Until permits become available, review the application and be sure to follow the outlined rules. Please contact Jason Boerger with any questions prior:

If you are a commercial photographer and wish to receive an update when the permit application becomes available, please sign up for our Photography email list Found online here:

As this is a new policy, we welcome feedback. Questions and concerns may be directed to the Parks office:

The Commercial Photography/Videography Application & Regulations can be found online: This permit will not allow for the use of a drone or similar device.

Permits will be required if a photographer:

• Sells produced images
• Uses imagery for advertisement
• Is paid for service while on Park property
• Uses props or equipment not typical of amateur or hobby photographers (see regulations for what props are allowed)

A permit is not required for:

• Personal use
• Special occasion photography / videography taken within a rented/ reserved area of the park
• Members of the news media on official business
• A student project produced only for a grade and not commercial use