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Photography not included in new commercial usage fees at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs

Lars Leber Garden of the Gods March 11 Cropped
Garden of the Gods in March, 2019; Photo: Lars Leber

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- City officials Monday clarified the situation involving new fees for commercial users at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.

Many people complained about the fees when they were announced late last year, believing that amateur or professional photographers would need a special permit at the popular park.

But Matt Mayberry, a manager for the city's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services department, and Jan Martin, president of the private Garden of the Gods Foundation, updated the City Council during a work session.

"Photography was never going to be part of the fee structure," he said. "We do require permits at Rock Ledge Ranch but not at Garden of the Gods. We're asking for feedback to consider it (at the park) in the future, but there's no timetable for deciding it."

"This is the first time I've heard confirmation of that," said Councilman Andy Pico. "I think most of us thought photography was part of it. The communication needs to be better."

Commercial usage fees have existed at other city parks for the past five years, but January marked the first time the fees applied to Garden of the Gods. Businesses such as bus tours and rock climbing groups are required to pay a $50 application charge in order to acquire a permit

You may remember when we first reported on the proposed fee, many people thought that commercial photographers could be charged up to $500 per year if they wanted to continue snapping shots from Garden of the Gods.

"Garden of the Gods is the #1 public park in the country, but with six million visitors last year, we're in danger of loving it to death," Martin said. "The Parks department has a limited budget and the park has many maintenance and project needs. The fee may not generate a lot of revenue, but every little bit helps us pay for things like new restrooms, which cost $1.2 million last year."

Mayberry said the park's budget, which comes from a variety of sources, is just under $2 million annually.

Under the fee schedule, the lowest amount is $50 for a single bus tour with no application fee required. A nonprofit bus tour pays $100 for a single trip and $350 for multiple trips annually, while a for-profit bus tour pays $150 for a single trip and $500 annually. The same amounts apply for other nonprofit and for-profit businesses, respectively.

"These fees will help us know how many businesses actually use the park for commercial purposes," Mayberry said. "And we can keep in closer contact with them in case there are road closures or special events."

Besides photography, permits for aerial drones and TV commercials are exempt from the commercial usage fee.

A petition circulated shortly after the discovery of the proposal garnered more than 18,000 signatures in the span of a month.

Around 200 notices were sent to known commercial users about the new fee and only 12 have responded so far.

"That's not necessarily a bad thing," Mayberry said. "It may just mean the business owners need more time to let the fee sink in, or to determine exactly how it affects them."

The City Council wasn't required to approve the park fees, but some members believe the amount is too high while others want parks officials to be more transparent about park fees in the future.

Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.



  1. “Park officials said the fee will give them a better idea of how many commercial users the park has,”
    I CALL BS !! The fact of the matter is-NOBODY, including Mayor NoParkingRequired Suthers, can or will say who thought up this new “fee”.They are just now scrambling to come up with a reason to substantiate this underhanded way to collect more money any way they can. Nobody owns the rights to an image of the GOG. Photographers should just use pre-taken background shots their clients use and the only thing the city should get is THE BIRD.

  2. I understand that GOG and city parks are in need of maintenance and upgrade. I also understand that a company that profits greatly from use of GOG and parks and adds daily wear and tear to the property needs to contribute to the property’s maintenance.

    But to say that mom and pop photography studios should be included in the above doesn’t take into account several facts.

    I pay my property taxes and my sales taxes – part of which goes to the parks.

    I pay special attention to making my time at the parks to be a neutral footprint. Visitors to GOG if they are from out of state do not contribute with the taxes the way I do.

    If an out of state visitors wants quality pictures of themselves with the magnificence of GOG – you are forcing them to pay more or have less quality in their pictures.

    The enforcement of the permits will be difficult. Will you hire enforcers or pay current rangers more to police the permits. It seems to me that the enforcement will be arbitrary – is it based on my equipment because it looks more professional? Is it based on whether I am related to my clients – how is that determined? So because I make money from photography, will I be harassed even though I am recreationally using the parks but carry my professional camera? Will I have to prove that I am related to a client that I am taking a portrait of? Although I won’t claim to be related unless I am indeed related to my clients because my integrity is more important that a photography fee, I know that other photographers will say they are related to their clients just to get a ranger off their backs.

    I don’t photograph often at GOG because of the amount of people that is usually using the park. Therefore I cause less wear and tear than many regular users of the parks.

    I understand charging a fee to a tour company that makes daily trips into the parks. I understand other business that make repeated trips. That ought to part of the consideration. Instead of using a blanket policy for a year regardless of how many times I use the park, the permit should be based on usage and the amount of profit I make from using the park.

    If I have to pay $500 to the use the park, I guarantee that I will use the park as much as possible to make up for the fee. Therefore the permit will increase the need for maintenance because of increased usage, rather than simply paying for the current usage.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    1. Umm Didn’t the article state photography is not apart of the fees proposed. So there will not be any photography fees. Just tours and climbing.

  3. “Under the fee schedule, the lowest amount is $50 for a single bus tour with no application fee required. A nonprofit bus tour pays $100 for a single trip…”
    What’s the distinction between “$50 for a single bus tour with no application fee” and “A nonprofit bus tour pays $100 for a single trip?” Seems to me they’re ripping off non-profits by charging more than $50 for a single trip…

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