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Ottawa Co. parks to require permit for commercial photographers

OTTAWA COUNTY - The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners will be requiring commercial photographers to get permits to shoot in county parks starting this fall.

The board says that since 1987, it has been against the park rules to operate a commercial business from a park or open space.  The county has not actively enforced the rule, but say that recently there have been several instances of photographers setting up make-shift studios with signs and lights and even a reception desk.  They say others have blocked trails or prevented regular users from getting to some parts of the parks.

“The permit process came out of many years of complaints of bad behavior," Ottawa County Parks communications specialist Jessica VanGinhoven tells FOX 17. "And I’m not trying to make all photographers out to be disrespectful, but many, many complaints.”

The board says they voted in March to allow commercial photographers and videographers a chance to apply for a permit, which will also help cover the county's liability and costs.

“We can’t permit a business to operate without having them prove to us that they have liability insurance," VanGinhoven says.

They say if they chose to enforce the 1987 rule, it would have meant the end of all commercial photography from the parks.  They say the county will not make any revenue with the permits.

“We’re not looking to get a cut of profit that you might collect eventually," VanGinhoven says. "That’s not what we’re looking to do here. We’re just trying to put out some rules for photographers to follow and we just came to the conclusion that that would be easier through a permit process."

Ottawa County Parks updated its policy this week. The following lists reflect those changes:

The permits are not required for those who are:

  • Taking pictures for personal use
  • Taking pictures for special occasions if they have already rented or reserved the area of the park
  • Members of the news media on official business
  • Student projects for grades and not for commercial use
The permits will be required of those who:
  • Sell images they are producing
  • Use the images for advertising purposes
  • Are paid for their service while at the park

To see all the rules, visit the county website here. To subscribe to email updates on these new permits, click here.

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