NPS Essentials: Special Park Uses


Management Polices 2006 (Section 8.6) defines a special park use as an activity that takes place in a park area, and that:

  • Provides a benefit to an individual, group, or organization rather than the public at large
  • Requires a written authorization and some degree of management control from the Service in order to protect park resources and the public interest
  • Is not prohibited by law or regulation
  • Is not initiated, sponsored, or conducted by the Service
  • Is not managed under a concession contract, a recreation activity for which the NPS charges a fee, or a lease (NPS Management Policies 2006, section 8.6.1)

Park managers shall take into account applicable legislation, regulations, management policies, and park planning documents when deciding whether to issue a special park use permit. The task of evaluating and authorizing or denying requests for special events or other non-NPS activities by groups or individuals is the responsibility of individual park Superintendents, with guidance from trained staff and SPU program managers.

Weddings, concerts, commercial filming, and boating events, are examples of the wide range of activities approved under SPU permits. Despite the range of events that have been approved in the past, the Superintendent must use discretion if the activity will:

  • Cause unacceptable impacts
  • Potentially result in human injury and/or damage to NPS property
  • Be contrary to the purposes for which the park has been established (i.e. impairment)
  • Unreasonably interfere with visitor services or program activities
  • Present a clear and present danger to public health and safety
  • Result in significant conflict with other park’s existing uses


  • What types of Special Park Uses currently occur in your park?
  • Who do you refer requests for Special Park Use permits to in your park?

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