Permits for First Amendment Activities

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Designated First Amendment Areas

Valley Forge has two designated areas for First Amendment activities:

  • The National Memorial Arch First Amendment space is available for groups with 50 participants or fewer during peak visitation periods; or larger groups that can be accommodated during non-peak visitation periods. Parking is available for passenger vehicles or buses only.

  • The Visitor Center Parking lot First Amendment space is located in the back third of the lot and can accommodate larger groups and larger vehicles.

Events with uncertain attendance numbers that could exceed 50 participants will be directed to the designated area in the visitor center parking lot.

top down view of a parking lot. the west side is outlined and highlighted top down view of national memorial arch area. section east of parking lot is outlined and highlighted

 

Activities that require a permit

Freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly are constitutional rights. The courts have recognized however, that activities associated with the exercise of these rights may be reasonably regulated in order to protect park resources.

Free speech activities that contain the following require a permit:

  • Events with more than 25 attendees / participants expected.

  • Using a location outside the park's designated First Amendment areas

  • Using a sound system or other equipment (e.g., stages, platforms or structures, etc.)

  • Soliciting donations.

What kinds of activities DO NOT require a permit?

Even if your free speech activity fits the criteria below and does not require a permit, we request that you provide reasonable notice of the proposed event, including whether there is any reason to believe that there may be an outside attempt to disrupt, protest, or prevent the activity.

Please send an email to Lisa Waterman at lisa_waterman@nps.gov with any details you have about your activity.

Groups of 25 or less if the following conditions are met:

  1. The group will be conducting the activity in an area of the park designated for first amendment use during park operating hours (see designated areas above).

  2. The group is not merely an extension of another group already availing itself of the small group (25 or less) permit exception.

  3. Hand-carried signs may be used, but stages, platforms, structures (like tents), sound systems or other support equipment may not be used.

  4. The group or individual is selling or freely distributing message-bearing, noncommercial, printed matter such as books, pamphlets, magazines and leaflets in a designated first amendment area.

  5. The group is freely distributing message-bearing, noncommercial material that does not qualify as printed material (such as a CD or DVD) in a designated area.

What is not allowed?

Anything that would:

  1. Cause injury or damage to park resources.

  2. Unreasonably impair the atmosphere of peace and tranquility maintained in wilderness, natural, historic or commemorative zones. The Washington's Headquarters and Varnums Quarters areas are examples of historic zones within Valley Forge National Historic Park.

  3. Unreasonably interfere with interpretive, visitor service, or other program activities, or with the administrative activities of the National Park Service.

  4. Substantially impair the operation of public use facilities or services of NPS concessioners, holders of commercial use authorizations or contractors.

  5. Present a clear and present danger to public health and safety.

  6. Sell or freely distribute commercial items at any time.

  7. Obstruct any sidewalk, trail, highway, building, entranceway, railroad track, or public utility right-of-way, or other public passage, whether alone or with others.

Intentional or reckless harassment of park visitors with physical contact is prohibited.

Trespassing, entering or remaining in or upon property not open to the public, except with the express invitation or consent of the National Park Service is prohibited. (36 CFR 2.31)

How to apply for a permit

If your free speech activity meets any of the criteria for events that require a permit (see above), please complete and submit the Special Events Form.

Feel free to attach any additional information (including proposed flyers, word documents, etc.) to your application. Do not advertise any event in the park that requires a permit until you have at least initial approval for your date and location.

The park has up to 10 days to approve a permit or issue a written denial.

When the requested use is a right involving access to park land for the exercise of First Amendment rights including freedom of assembly, speech, religion and press, the superintendent will issue a permit without any requirement for fees, cost recovery or insurance.

Media coverage of First Amendment activities

An exception to the designated area requirement would be for the press for the filming or documentation of breaking news. News coverage does not require a permit, for either filming or photography, but is subject to time, place and manner restrictions, if warranted, to maintain order and ensure the safety of the public and the media, and protect natural and cultural resources.

Code of Federal Regulations

Last updated: March 21, 2022

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