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No permit? No pictures! Ottawa County to start enforcing park photo policy

Professional photographers, accused of taking advantage of park rules in Ottawa County, will soon need a permit.

Ottawa County, Mich. - If you want to take your wedding photos or graduation photos in an Ottawa County Park, your photographer will need a permit.

The county says since the Parks Commission was founded it has had rules against operating a commercial business in the parks and open spaces. The county says the rule is to maintain the tranquil ambiance of the park. The county has not actively enforced the rule for commercial photographers but says it will start doing so this fall.

"When I take clients to the park I always like to make sure that we are secondary to the parkgoers but unfortunately that's not universal and we end up with policies like this," Brenda Hoffman, owner of Brenda Hoffman photography, said.

Jessica VanGinhoven with Ottawa County Parks told 13 On Your Side the policy change stemmed from parkgoer complaints.

A news release from the county said, "Recently, several photographers have taken advantage of that leniency and set up makeshift studios in the parks complete with signage, props, lights, and even a receptionist desk. Others frequently blocked trails or prevented regular users from accessing parts of the park."

Permits will be required if a photographer:

  • Sells produced images
  • Uses imagery for advertisement
  • Is paid for service while on park property

A permit is not required for:

  • Personal use
  • Special occasion photography/videos taken within a rented and/or reserved area of the park
  • Members of the news media on official business
  • A student project produced only for a grade and not commercial use

The permits will cost $25.00 for a day pass or $150.00 per year. VanGinhoven said the money will go towards regulating the policy.

"Since we’re allowing an exception to our rule that is going to create work for the staff," VanGinhoven said.

"There’s a lot of photographers and there’s a lot of different parks that you can shoot so that was where the fee came in. It’s really an administrative cost where everyone gets the best experience possible."

Requiring a permit also allows county officials to make sure professional photographers have proper liability insurance.

"If they don’t [have insurance] it costs the taxpayers money in a lawsuit."

Professional photos won't be required to have a permit until Fall 2018. More information and a permit application can be found on the county's website.

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