Special Use Permit - First Amendment Activities

Freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly are rights protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. People may exercise these rights in national parks, but the National Park Service (NPS) still retains its responsibility to protect park resources and prevent conflict among park visitors. Therefore, the NPS establishes guidelines for setting the time, place, and manner (number of participants, use of facilities, and type of equipment) for the events to occur.

By law, the NPS has established places in parks where First Amendment activities can be accommodated. These areas are visible to the general visiting public without interfering with the public's enjoyment of the park.

Special Use Permits are issued for First Amendment activities, but there are no fees or costs and no insurance is required for the activities. All requests for similar activities are treated equally. As long as permit criteria and requirements are met, no group wishing to assemble lawfully will be discriminated against or denied the right of assembly.

Groups of 25 persons or less may exercise their First Amendment activities without first obtaining a permit. They are still required to use one of the park's First Amendment areas. Groups without permits will be allowed use of the First Amendment area on a first come first serve basis. A group with a valid permit will be permitted to displace a group without a permit.

Permit Application Procedure

Requests for a permit application may be made in person at the Harkers Island Visitor Center or via telephone, email, or letter. The application form may be downloaded from the Special Use Permits webpage. Please allow minimum of two (2) business days for processing. Park contact information is:

Special Use Permits Phone: 252-728-2250
Cape Lookout National Seashore FAX: 252-728-2160
131 Charles Street Website: www.nps.gov/calo
Harkers Island, NC 28531 Email: e-mail us

Types of First Amendment Activities

  • Religious services or ceremonies
  • Press conference
  • Press coverage of breaking news
  • Voter registration
  • Collecting signatures on petitions or voter initiatives
  • Public demonstration, picketing, assembly or rally for expressing opinion and views
  • Sale or distribution of printed material related to free expression of opinion

Type of Activities that are NOT covered by the First Amendment

  • Church picnic or social gathering
  • Wedding ceremonies or receptions
  • Political fundraiser or other invitation-only political activity or event
  • Solicitation of donations
  • Community parades, athletics, or sporting events
  • Scattering of cremated human remains ("cremains")

Many non-First Amendment activities can be accommodated through the Special Use Permit system for which a fee may be charged. Liability insurance may be required. Refer to the Permits webpage for additional information.



If your application is approved, a Special Use Permit will be prepared and mailed to you for signature. Upon receipt, please review, sign, and return the permit to our office for the Superintendent's signature. After the Superintendent signs the permit, a copy of the permit will be forwarded to you. This should all be done well in advance of your chosen date. The approved, signed permit copy must be in your possession at the time of the event (except groups of 25 or less, which do not require a permit).

Terms & Conditions

To maintain park natural and cultural resources and quality visitor experiences in addition to the standard terms and conditions, the following conditions and requirements apply to Special Use Permits for First Amendment activities:

  1. The activity must not conflict with any scheduled National Park Service (NPS) function or program
  2. First Amendment activities will be conducted in designated areas as specified in the Cape Lookout National Seashore Superintendent's Compendium.
  3. Permits are issued for no longer than a seven (7) day period. A permit is renewable for like periods upon completion of another application, and provided no other application has been received and no prevailing park use has been identified for the area requested
  4. The NPS reserves the right to immediately revoke the permit at any time should this become necessary in the interest of public safety, public health and general welfare.
  5. The person or group will comply with any instructions from a designated official representative from Cape Lookout National Seashore or other entity with authority (ie. Sheriff's Department, etc.
  6. The area used by the permitee will be left in the same condition as found and all litter placed in trash receptacles. Any NPS property damaged by, or as a result of the permittee, will be replaced or repaired at the cost of the permittee.
  7. Structures, including tents and portable pavilions may not be erected.
  8. No items may be attached to NPS property (fences, trees, trash receptacles, etc.). Banners and signs which are hand carried are allowed and must not pose a danger to anyone else in the area.
  9. Electrical power will not be furnished nor will generators be allowe.
  10. Any portable public address system being used will be so adjusted as to accommodate only those people in the immediate area.
  11. Participants are to avoid language which implies any official connections to the NPS and its activities.
  12. Good order and proper decorum shall be maintained by the person or persons conducting and participating in the event and the person or persons will leave the area at the designated conclusion time. Permittee will be responsible for security and orderly behavior at the event.

Last updated: January 27, 2018

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

131 Charles St
Harkers Island , NC 28531


252 728-2250

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