Overland Park & Leawood

Overland Park adopts new rules for professional photography in parks

Updated: 2014-01-18T00:16:18Z

By MATT CAMPBELL

The Kansas City Star

The meanies at Overland Park City Hall just made it illegal for you to have your engagement photo taken at one of the city’s 83 parks without a permit.

Or did they?

The City Council this week imposed a fee of $50 for commercial photography and video in its parks, prompting some professional shooters to grouse to news reporters.

But commercial photography, technically, has never been allowed in the city’s public parks. City code generally forbids commercial use of public parks. By adopting Resolution 4049, the City Council was actually making photography legal — although requiring a permit.

“We had a request recently to do a little bit of filming that was a commercial venture and because of that ordinance, we couldn’t allow it,” said Greg Ruether, manager of the Overland Park Parks and Forestry Department. “We can now accommodate those requests.”

The city has required a permit since 2007 for commercial photography at the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens and at the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead. The fee of $25 per hour or $400 a year remains unchanged at those locations.

The new permit fee for the rest of the parks is $50 and is good for up to five days.

Commercial photography is defined as a shoot that is done for a fee, that uses special equipment, that promotes products or that involves models, sets, changes of clothing or props.

“This would include but not (be) limited to portraits capturing engagements, weddings, high school seniors, quinceañeras and family portraits,” stated a city staff report.

People taking snapshots while visiting the parks are exempt from the permit requirement, as is most nature photography, Ruether said.

Kansas City also technically forbids commercial use of its parks without permission, but the city does not impose a fee for photographers taking pictures if they are for personal use.

“As long as the pictures that are being taken, whether by a professional or a regular person, are just for personal use, they do not need to get a permit,” said Heidi Downer, spokeswoman for the Parks and Recreation Department. “If they’re going to sell those photos, if they’re going to promote a business, a brand or something with those photos, they do need to get a permit.”

A permit is required for all professional photographers, however, at the Shoal Creek Living History Center at Hodge Park because it depends on a volunteer organization that needs the money.

Overland Park’s new permit requirement is not expected to generate significant revenue for the city. It was intended, instead, to give the city more control over what goes on in the parks. Professional photo shoots sometimes obstruct parks and trails from other users.

“We’re trying to balance private use versus public use,” said Sean Reilly, spokesman for the city.

Permits for photo shoots at the Overland Park Arboretum can be obtained there and for other parks at the Matt Ross Community Center.

But, as before, it all really depends on the honor system. Photographers without permits may be told to cease, but there are no penalties, Reilly said.

To reach Matt Campbell, call 816-234-4902 or send email to mcampbell@kcstar.com.

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