Permits & Reservations

Permits are required for special events and non-traditional uses of the park. Because these are not typical uses of our park and can have a significant impact on park visitors and resources, staff will review permit applications to determine whether your proposal would have a detrimental effect on the park or impact our regular visitors and will evaluate your permit request.

A special park use is defined as a short-term activity that takes place in a park area, and that:

  1. provides a benefit to an individual, group, or organization rather than the public at large;

  2. requires written authorization and some degree of management control from the National Park Service (NPS) in order to protect park resources and the public interest;

  3. is not prohibited by law or regulation;

  4. is not initiated, sponsored, or conducted by the NPS; and is not managed under a concession contract, a recreation activity for which the NPS charges a fee, or a lease.

Please note that while a special park use may meet the above criteria, not all activities are approved based on park specific resources, visitation, and potential impact. There are many regulations for the use of National Parks for private events. These guide us to appropriately approve permitting requests. The laws guiding our permit process include, but are not limited to, 36 CFR § 2.50, §1.5(d), and 43 CFR Subpart A. These laws and regulations allow us to appropriately approve permitting requests. To learn more about these laws, review the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations.

 

Activities that Require a Permit

The following include, but are not limited to, activities that require a permit:
Guidance for permitting special events is found in 36 CFR § 2.50 - Special events. This regulation stipulates the following conditions for approving and denying special event requests:

(a) …There is a meaningful association between the park area and the events, and the observance contributes to visitor understanding of the significance of the park area, and a permit therefor has been issued by the superintendent. A permit shall be denied if such activities would:
(1) Cause injury or damage to park resources; or
(2) Be contrary to the purposes for which the natural, historic, development and special use zones were established; or unreasonably impair the atmosphere of peace and tranquility maintained in wilderness, natural, historic, or commemorative zones.
When photography activities occur in national parks, they must be consistent with the protection of park resources and avoid conflict with public use, the educational nature of the park, and the enjoyment of the park by all visitors.


Who Needs a Permit?
Still photography requires a permit in sensitive commemorative areas to include:

Chatham Manor and grounds
Sunken Road
National Cemetery
Old Salem Church and grounds
Ellwood and grounds
Jackson Death Site and grounds


The park seeks to provide visitors with the opportunity to envision the historic scene in an atmosphere of quiet contemplation. Still photography in sensitive commemorative areas has become so popular that permits have become necessary to manage this activity.

Permits are also required for still photography in other areas when:

  • The activity involves the use of people paid for their time, such as models, actors, on camera talent, etc., the use of sets, or the subject of the photo is an article of commerce or model used for the purpose of advertising.
  • The activity could result in damage to park resources, disruption of normal visitor use or a conflict with scheduled interpretive events.
  • Access is needed to areas not otherwise open to the visiting public or before or after normal visiting hours.
Personal Use
Visitors using cameras for their own personal use are generally exempt from photography permit requirements. However any photography when it involves the use of a model (any on camera talent), set, prop, or when it could result in damage to park resources or poses significant disruption of normal visitor use or conflicts with scheduled Park events, requires a permit. A permit is also required if the photographer wants access to areas not open to the public or before or after normal visitation hours.

Props: What's allowed and what's not?
Props allowed with a permit include blankets, pillows, hand-held items such as musical instruments, small baskets. Permitted props also include photography equipment other than a camera and tripod. The use of equipment such as lighting, backdrops, shades, screens, etc. requires a permit.

The following props are not allowed: balloons, large decorative props, backdrops, sandbags, alcohol, ‘gender reveal’ items, candles, smoke generators, or snow machines. These items have the potential to be released into the park environment and/or impair the visitor experience and are not allowed. This list is not all-inclusive. When in doubt, contact the permit coordinator. Use of confetti and/or glitter may cause damage to resources and is not allowed on park property.

Leave the drone at home.
The launching, landing, or operation of unmanned aircraft is prohibited in Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP.

The following types of filming activities may occur in areas open to the public without a permit and without advance notice to the NPS:

  • Outdoor filming activities involving five persons or less and equipment that will be carried at all times, except for small tripods used to hold filming cameras.

The organizer of any other type of filming activity must provide written notice to the Superintendent at least 10 days prior to the start of the proposed activity. Based upon the information provided, the Superintendent may require the organizer to apply for and obtain a permit if necessary to:

  • maintain public health and safety;
  • protect environmental or scenic values;
  • protect natural or cultural resources;
  • allow for equitable allocation and use of facilities; or
  • avoid conflict among visitor use activities.
If the Superintendent determines that the terms and conditions of a permit could not mitigate the concerns identified above in an acceptable manner, the Superintendent may deny a filming request without issuing a permit. The Superintendent will provide the basis for denial in writing upon request. The NPS will consider requests and process permit applications in a timely manner.

Processing times will vary depending on the complexity of the proposed activity. If the organizer provides the required 10-day advance notice to the NPS and has not received a written response from the NPS that a permit is required prior to the first day of production, the proposed filming activities may occur without a permit.


The following are prohibited:

  1. Engaging in a filming activity without providing advance notice to the Superintendent when required.
  2. Engaging in a filming activity without a permit if [the activity takes place in areas managed as wilderness or if] the Superintendent has notified the organizer in writing that a permit is required.
  3. Violating a term and condition of a permit issued under this action. Violating a term or condition of a permit issued under to this action may also result in the suspension and revocation of the permit by the Superintendent.

If you are interested in filming activities in the park, you are encouraged to contact the permits office at frsp_permits@nps,gov directly for more information about filming and to discuss how to minimize potential impacts to visitors and sensitive park resources.

The National Park Service will authorize the use of park land for public assemblies, meetings, demonstrations, religious activities, and other public expressions of views protected under the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution, in accordance with 36 CFR 2.51.

A permit for demonstrations in First Amendment designated areas is required if there are more than 25 people in a group. Hand-carried signs may be used, but stages, platforms, or structures may not be used.

First Amendment areas are first come, first serve, so applying for a permit regardless of group size is recommended.

Designated First Amendment areas are located within the following places (links to image displaying permit area):

A Commercial Use Authorization (CUA) is a permit that authorizes suitable commercial services for park visitors within Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. The term of the CUA may not exceed 2 years and no preferential right of renewal or similar provisions for renewal may be provided.

The requirement for a CUA is in 36 CFR 5.3 - It is illegal to conduct business in a park area without a permit, contract, or other written agreement. Additionally, Public Law 105-391 Section 418, passed in 1998, provides NPS the authority to issue CUAs to allow business operations and requires NPS to collect a reasonable fee for CUA administration and management.

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP can authorize a variety of commercial services, including guided tours. For more information and to request the application, please contact the Chief Ranger’s office at 540-693-3200 x3010.

Weddings and Similar Commitment Ceremonies

Weddings are not approved special events. While we are happy that you would consider Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park for an occasion as special as your wedding, special events held at the park must "have a meaningful association between the park area and the events, and the observance contributes to visitor understanding of the significance of the park area."
 

Apply for a Permit

To file a permit application, download and submit the appropriate permit form:

Email completed permit applications to frsp_permits@nps.gov.

Special Use Permits are valid for the dates issued on the permit only.

Photography-based permits are valid for 6 months from the date they are signed. Once the permit expires, a new application will need to be submitted with the application fee. Please contact the park after you are permitted when you plan to conduct a photoshoot via email at frsp_permits@nps.gov.

Apart from First Amendment permits, Special Use Permits may take one week or more (depending on project type and volume of requests) to process. Processing will not begin until payment is received (if required).

Application Fees

The standard application fee for a Special Use Permit is $100. The application fee includes administrative time; including phone calls, correspondence, application review, and project consultation, scheduling park staff, permit issuance, follow-up and billing. Fees can increase based on the administrative need, scale or impact of the event, as decided by the Superintendent and Chief Ranger.

The processing fee should be submitted to Pay.gov once a completed permit has been returned to you with an assigned permit number. Pay.gov is the best way to pay the fee. This allows expedited processing and in the event a refund is necessary, the fastest way to receive your refund.

If you are unable to pay via Pay.gov, a check can be mailed to:

Attn: Permit Coordinator
120 Chatham Ln
Fredericksburg, VA 22405

 

Questions?

Please contact the Chief Rangers Office for additional permit information at 540-693-3200 x3010 or e-mail us.

Last updated: September 29, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

120 Chatham Ln
Fredericksburg, VA 22405

Phone:

(540) 693-3200

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