The little blurb noted that “paid permits are required” to shoot in the parks.
Several group members spoke up and reassured the original poster that, no the website is still the same. You just fill out the application for the year. It’s free. No big deal. Just like always.
So I was curious. I placed a call to the MetroParks office and spoke with Shane Conley, who manages these permits. Is everything status quo? Or are there new policies for photographers at Five Rivers MetroParks?
As it turns out, things they are a-changin’.
Beginning very soon (Conley mentioned something would happen in the next few weeks, possibly March 1), permits will no longer be free. Instead, there will be an annual fee of $100 for all professional photographers who want to shoot in the MetroParks. Conley noted that the permit page on the MetroParks website will soon be updated to accommodate this change. As before, you’ll be able to apply for a permit for the entire calendar year. Credit cards will be accepted directly on the permit page, or you can make arrangements to pay by check over the phone.
Why the change? Conley cited several reasons.
As I’ve personally noticed, several of the more popular parks can get overrun with photographers. This leads to damaged property, which costs money to repair. Charging a fee also gives the MetroParks more power to enforce the rules. Conley noted that many times, photographers will block paths to park visitors, or even leave props behind. The new permit policy will give the parks department more leeway to educate photographers about proper etiquette for shooting on their grounds.
Conley said they currently issue about 180 permits per year to photographers. By the parks department’s estimation, this covers about half of the photographers who actually use the parks. They are hoping the policy change will get the remaining local photographers on record with permits.
The parks department is also training employees to appropriately handle photographers in the parks. They’ll be taught the proper etiquette of approaching a photographer to ask for proof of permit. Conley noted that this should be done privately, not in front of the client. He also shared that while permit enforcement has been fairly lax in the past, the new policies will be more strongly enforced.
Also of note, this change isn’t going to affect photographers alone.
Photographers are only one group of professionals who regularly use the park, and we are the guinea pigs for this new policy. Yoga studios and other physical fitness groups are also using the parks frequently. These and other similar groups will likely be asked to pay for use of the parks in the near future as well. Which makes sense, as larger groups tend to cause more direct damage to the grounds and prevent casual visitors from enjoying the parks.
The department is still discussing how they will handle violations of the new policy, and whether or not fines might be issued.
There is one thing to note, however.
Those who file for permits before the fee is instated will have a valid pass for all of 2015 — for FREE.
So you might want to hop on over NOW and get that permit. Here’s that link:
A few additional bits of information.
This post has gotten far more attention than I ever anticipated. Which is really amazing. The story got picked up by the local news outlets and some additional information has been reported by the Dayton Daily News that I want to share here as well.
DDN’s interview with Five Rivers MetroParks noted that the reason for the new policy of paid permits is due to decreasing revenue in past years. This was a result of decreased property values (hence, less collected in property taxes and less that has been distributed to the parks), and decreased funding. They’re just doing what any entity has to do when income decreases, but expenses stay the same (or increase). They’re looking for an additional revenue stream. I, for one, am happy to give it to them. Because as an on-location shooter, their parks are often my studio. I’m totally cool paying for that.
Also some information about the Washington-Centerville Parks.
As it turns out, they actually DO have a permit for photographers who want to shoot on premises. It is $50 for a year. No one has applied for it in the past year. Probably because there is no information about it on their website. This is something they are aware of, and are working to change.
For photographers who are coming up in the business, this is the kind of information you don’t know to look for. A case of we don’t know what we don’t know. And once you realize that the parks you’re shooting in probably have rules about professional photographers, the idea of figuring out all the rules for all the parks? Pretty daunting.
Wouldn’t it be fabulous if they could band together and hold the same policies from park system to park system? Most of them are too small to handle this sort of thing on their own, but are likely aware that something needs to be done. And it would certainly make it easier for us photographers to not have to find, understand and adhere to different rules for each park system. And what if…what if they could offer one permit together that is governed by some sort of committee that each park system participates in?
Just an idea.
Do you have an idea?
What kinds of things do we as photographers need to know about when it comes to using parks for business?
How do you think “commercial photographer” should be defined? How can/should a person’s hobby/pro status be verified on site?
Do you think there should be fines for those who shoot without a permit? If so, how much should they be?
How can we, as photographers, help preserve the parks that are such an important part of our livelihood?
How could smaller park systems who don’t have rangers enforce the permits rules?
Would it make sense to require photographers to schedule their permits on an as-needed basis? For example, if I want to shoot at Grant Nature on March 23, what if I could hop on the WC Parks website and reserve my right to shoot that day? What if there were only a certain number of permits available for each day . . . first come, first served? And what if they only cost $5-$10 per day? Would limiting the number of permits per day help solve some of the overcrowding issues and maintain a pleasant park atmosphere for patrons?
Let’s brainstorm. How can we help our parks accomplish their goals, while making it work for us?
Be constructive. Be creative. What do you think? Let’s start a conversation. Comment below.