Fitness groups that hold classes at public parks, green spaces, and other multi-use public areas in Colorado’s capital city of Denver could soon have to pay user fees to the city in order to continue using them, according to new proposals. Paid exercise programs like CrossFit and yoga that involve large groups of people are taking over public spaces intended for general use, say city officials, and should thus have to gain proper use permits in order to hold their classes in public.
Following the lead of Santa Monica, California, which recently proposed taking a cut of the revenues generated by fitness classes held in public parks, Denver officials are essentially trying to curb a growing trend that is changing the way public parks are used. Since many outdoor fitness classes are led by paid instructors, they are technically businesses operating on public property, say officials, which means they are technically in violation of city ordinances.
“A lot of these groups really are businesses that provide their goods and services in the park,” says Jeff Green from Denver Parks and Recreation, as quoted by CBS Denver. “If they don’t have a permit, they’re kind of breaking the law. We want people to enjoy our parks and this is kind of balancing the needs and wants of the commercial operators with the way that regular citizens and general park visitors use the park.”
When we covered this issue back in January with regards to the city of Santa Monica, it appeared as though officials were merely trying to generate more revenue at the expense of the more athletic among us. But officials have a good point — how many times have you tried to use a public park for a family picnic or a game of pickup football, only to discover that a body sculpting boot camp or yoga class was taking up all the lawn space?
Are paid fitness classes entitled to the same use of public parks as non-paying members of the general public?
On the other hand, fitness classes, regardless of whether or not they charge people for their services, are technically still taxpaying contributors to the park system just like the rest of the general public. From this perspective, fitness classes have the same rights as anyone else when it comes to using public parks for recreation. And with so many overweight individuals in America today, it seem somewhat counterintuitive for city officials to meddle with public park usage.
“We live in Colorado. This is beautiful. Why shouldn’t we be out here?” asks Tonia Seidl, a member of a local boot camp that uses Denver public parks, as quoted by CBS Denver.
“We should never discourage exercise. We need to encourage exercise (and) remove every barrier possible,” adds Chris Lindley, her trainer.
Still, if paid fitness classes obstruct the use of public parks by others who want to use them for free, should they receive priority? Or is the city of Denver merely trying to preserve the intended use of its parks by restricting the use of public parks for profit purposes? What do you think about the issue of paid fitness instruction taking place in public parks?
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