Updated April 4, 2019
I am a nature Photographer and I occasionally sell a print. Do I need a permit?
Our interest is in covering our liability from commercial businesses operating in the parks. So, this basically comes down to your intent. If you came to the park to take some photos because that is a hobby you enjoy, then you are not operating a business, and no permit is required. Whether you then sell an image later on is of no interest to us. If you are coming to the park for the sole purpose of producing images for your business, then you are operating a business in the park and the permit and liability insurance requirement would apply.
Why are you doing this?
Just like you would expect a plumber or landscaper that works on your property to be insured, we expect businesses that work on county property to be insured. Because it is often difficult to determine who is or is not operating a business, we have not enforced the long standing rule prohibiting commercial operations as it relates to commercial photography in the past. Last year several photographers made it so obvious that they were operating a business that we could no longer responsibly look the other way. So this policy is designed to protect the liability of the county and its tax payers and to help enforce a set of photography ground rules.
So, if a photographer has a permit, they have permission to “do whatever they want”?
No. Part of the reason this permit process was implemented was to make it easier to enforce ground rules for photographers. When you submit your application, you are agreeing to follow those rules. Failure to follow those rules will result in revocation of your permit and the inability to apply for another.
Why is there a fee?
Update April 2019: Please note that this policy was reviewed and simplified; the fee was officially eliminated at the April 3, 2019 Parks Commission meeting.
June 2018: The fee is to cover our administrative costs to implement and enforce this policy. We do not expect to make any revenue from this permit process above our expenses. The reason for the fee is because we did not feel it was responsible to spend tax payer dollars on helping someone to set up their for-profit business to operate in the park.
How will you know who is a professional and who is an amateur when you try to enforce this policy?
Update April 2019: Parks staff will only enforce the policy if commercial photographers are breaking park rules/commercial photography and videography regulations. Staff will issue first-time warnings to inform people how to get permits. If photographers are encountered a second time for violating the commercial photography policy, they will be issued a civil infraction.
June 2018: We will ask, and we will have to take people at their word unless there is some obvious sign to the contrary like handing out business cards or posting a sign. If someone chooses to lie to us then that decision and the increased personally liability to that possibly uninsured business owner is on them. We will not be spending staff time to try to determine their truthfulness. No one who is unaware of the policy will be kicked out or asked to stop shooting the first time that they interact with park staff.
I pay my taxes for this public park, why can’t I just do whatever I want?
Our interest is in covering our liability from commercial businesses operating in the parks to protect Ottawa County and its tax payers. It would be irresponsible of us to allow any and all businesses regardless of whether they are insured or not to operate from public park land. We could end up with a flea market instead of a park.
Why are photographers being singled out?
All businesses operating on county property are required to have special permission and liability insurance. Using park property for commercial operations without a special permit is specifically prohibited on the park rules and regulations, so very few businesses are permitted to operate on county park property. Because we want commercial photographers to continue to operate in our parks, they are being offered an opportunity not many other business are given.
How can I make sure that I know when this goes into effect?
I don’t like this policy / I have suggestions for you.
This permit and policy is new for us. We are open to feedback and suggestions. Please feel free to email us. We have already made a number of changes based on very reasonable feedback from photographers. We truly appreciate your input.
The featured photograph was taken by Mike Lozon at Hemlock Crossing Park.