Special Use Permit Program
The Special Use Permit Program manages non-commercial group activities on Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) lands.
What is the Special Use Permit Program?
The Special Use Permit Program manages non-commercial group activities on Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) lands. OSMP has designed the program to help minimize impacts to natural, agricultural and cultural resources, and preserve the quality of the visitor experience.
Special use permits are required by the Boulder Revised Code section 8-8-8:
- No person shall organize, promote, or stage a noncommercial event intended for or which can reasonably be expected to draw an attendance of twenty-five or more participants and spectators on any open space and mountain parks property without first obtaining a permit from the city manager under this section.
- No person who has obtained a permit from the city manager under this section shall organize, promote, or stage a noncommercial event intended for or which can reasonably be expected to draw an attendance of twenty-five or more participants and spectators on any open space and mountain parks property without having the permit in their possession at all times during the event.
Which Permit Do I Need?
Unsure of which permit you might need? Answer a few questions in the guide to find out if you need a Commercial Use, Special Use and/or Film Permit. Please note: weddings, ceremonies, elopements and other stationary events are only permitted to occur at designated shelters and facilities on Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) lands.
Who needs a Special Use Permit?
Any organizer of a passive recreational group activity that has the potential to attract 25 or more participants or spectators will require a special use permit.
Special use permits will be required for:
Any passive recreational group activity that has the potential to attract 25 or more participants or spectators;
Any event that may require an exemption from any existing policies or regulations, regardless of group size;
School activities not requiring a commercial use permit will need a permit for groups with 25 or more participants;
Some examples of special uses include group hikes, rides or picnics.
Permits are designed to:
- Approve conditions for special uses to bring impacts within an acceptable level;
- Direct special uses to alternate sites that can adequately handle the impacts of the activity;
- Disallow special uses that create unacceptable impact.
Fill out Application
Fill out the Special Use Permit application thoroughly as soon as you begin to plan a trip to OSMP. Toilet and parking facilities must be adequate for the proposed trip.
Submit Application 14 Days Ahead
You are required to submit your application at least 14 days before the requested trip. OSMP staff will work with trip organizers who apply fewer than 14 days before the planned trip, but there is no guarantee that the permit will be issued in time for the trip.
Apply for a Special Use Permit
Guidelines and Terms and Conditions
- Fundraisers are prohibited unless there is a city sponsor. A city sponsor is a full-time permanent city employee who serves as a representative for the trip. The sponsor must pledge that the program being supported by the fundraiser is aligned with a city program’s purpose and objectives. The sponsor is required to be familiar with the conditions of the permit and be able to report back to OSMP staff with summary information about the trip, including the number of participants, the start time, end time and any other pertinent information.
- Most OSMP trailheads do not accommodate full-sized busses or school busses. Boulder County restricts vehicles that are more than 30 feet long from driving up Flagstaff Mountain.
- We encourage you to be trained in and teach Leave No Trace principles by taking an awareness workshop offered through Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.
- This permit application is only for permission to use the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks lands. OSMP properties are surrounded by land managed by other departments or agencies. If activities associated with this trip include land managed by other agencies, those agencies should be contacted for review and approval.
- If you plan to travel off of a designated trail in a Habitat Conservation Area, you will need to obtain an off-trail permit. The group size limit for off-trail permits is 16 people.
Terms and Conditions
OSMP may make modifications to this list based on your permit application.
- Stay on the listed designated trails and do not obstruct or block trails or parking areas.
- Mitigate on-trail conflict, unpleasant, or irritating situations by breaking into groups with 16 or fewer participants upon entering OSMP lands, and by practicing good trail etiquette including yielding to others while staying on the trail and not stepping on vegetation.
- Trail etiquette should be stressed throughout the trip.
- Dogs must remain on-leash.
- Trip organizers must require participants to sign up for the trip in advance in order to effectively limit the number of participants. Trip organizers shall not publish specific details about start time and location in any flyers or advertisements notifying the trip unless the notice refers to the requirement of reservations for attending the trip.
- No sales or solicitation for sales is to be conducted on OSMP property.
- Group size cannot exceed what has been approved by OSMP.
- If your group has 50 or more participants, comply with the parking, trash and toilet plan you provided.
- If damages occur due to the trip, all damages will be billed to the trip organizer.
- Trip representatives must carry their permit or a copy of it and show it to staff if requested.
- Permits may be immediately suspended, revoked, or modified for any reason.
- OSMP lands will generally remain available on a first-come-first-served basis for all visitors.
- Permits do not grant exclusive use of site or parking facilities. Permittees shall ensure that the rights and privileges of other visitors are recognized and met.
- The permit holder shall indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the City of Boulder and its agency employees for losses, damages, or judgments and expenses on accidents.
- No improvements or trail alterations of any kind, temporary or permanent, are authorized without written permission from OSMP. No facility, property or natural feature may be destroyed, defaced, removed or disturbed.
- No signs advertising the event are permitted.
- In the event of rain or snow within 48 hours of the trip, the trip may have to be rescheduled or cancelled.
- The minimum security deposit is $100, which might be waived.
- Security deposits will be returned after the trip depending on the extent of damages incurred.
- Organizers are responsible for providing safety and medical coverage for the trip.
- Permit holders shall comply with all OSMP rules and regulations.
Frequently Asked Questions
The following are some frequently asked questions about the City of Boulder Special Use Permits for Open Space and Mountain Parks. If your question isn’t answered here, please don't hesitate to call us!
The Special Use Permit Program manages group activities on Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) lands that are part of a curricular school activity or if no fee is charged to participate in the group. OSMP has designed the program to help minimize impacts to other visitors and natural, agricultural and cultural resources.
Special use permits are required for all groups with 25 or more people on OSMP land. School groups may get an exception for groups with 25 to 49 participants, but must notify OSMP at least two weeks before the trip and receive a permission letter.
Events such as weddings are allowed at several OSMP facilities by reservation. Weddings are not typically allowed on OSMP lands outside of the facilities due to the potential impacts of trampling vegetation and disturbing wildlife that occur where large groups of people congregate.
Fill out the Special Use Permit Application completely and submit the form as soon as you can with your trip dates and details so that OSMP has sufficient time to review and approve the permit.
Yes. You may apply for as many dates as you want within one calendar year per application. Detailed information will be required for each trip.
Please call or send an email to the permit administrator as soon as you know your date will change so OSMP can work with you to select another date that does not conflict with other groups or circumstances.
There is no charge for a special use permit. There is a $100 damage deposit that OSMP may decide to waive, depending on the permit application. Permittees are responsible for any damage incurred by the group activity.
It will take at least 14 days to process and review your complete application. If your trip is fewer than 14 days from when we receive your application, OSMP will try to work with you, but there is no guarantee that your permit will be approved in time for your trip.
It is valid for the dates specified on the permit. If you have different dates or additional dates, please contact the permit administrator.
Trips into high use areas will generally be approved on a first come, first served basis. The appropriateness of the site for the requested activity will be taken into consideration.
Yes. You will be able to renew your permit for the next calendar year as long as you remain in good standing with OSMP. Detailed information will be required for each planned trip.
If your event has a high-risk activity or has the potential to cause environmental damage, you may be required to submit proof of insurance coverage.
- No concerts or amplified events
- No fundraising without a city sponsor
- No organized competitive sporting events
- No motorized vehicular access or use
- No organized events requiring off-trail use or special facilities not consistent with the purposes of the area
- No sale or dispensing of alcohol (Flagstaff Mountain facility rentals may allow an alcohol permit to City of Boulder residents for wine or beer.)
- No use/event which violates city, county, state or federal law
No. The permit does not grant an exclusive use privilege. Permittees shall ensure that the rights and privileges of other visitors are recognized and met.
You are considered a commercial use operator if you charge a fee for a service that brings people or dogs to OSMP lands or facilities. A fee can be a charge, purchase of goods or services, or a required donation for a service or as a condition of participation. Commercial operators include for-profits and non-profits.
If your group is part of a curricular school activity or does not charge a fee to participants, you may need a special use permit.
Examples include: group hikes, rides and picnics, school field trips, family reunions and weddings.
Examples of groups that do not require a special use permit are:
- Businesses or organizations that require a commercial use permit;
- Groups on an officially led OSMP interpretive hike (OSMP staff or volunteer led).
If your group will be traveling off of a designated trail in a Habitat Conservation Area (HCA), you will need to obtain an off-trail permit along with a special use permit. Off-trail permit group size is limited to 16 or fewer participants.
No. You may not attach signs, balloons or flags to any tree or structure. You may not flag routes or leave any flagging substance on trails.