Groups that make money holding fitness classes and other activities in Raleigh’s city parks will soon pay a small fee to do so.
The City Council on Tuesday approved a new policy that requires commercial users to get a $25 annual permit if they want to offer programs such as running clubs or fitness boot camps in parks or on greenways.
Scott Payne, assistant director of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department, said the permit isn’t meant to be a money-maker but a way to track groups and make sure they are using the parks appropriately and safely.
Running groups might get a message about sharing the trails, while a fitness group could be told it’s meeting in an emergency spillway area and should adjust its plans.
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The businesses also will have to show they have liability insurance.
“This issue came to us from citizens concerned about types of businesses occurring on park property,” Payne said. “We evaluated the concerns and discovered that there are a lot of diverse user groups in the system and the opportunity for conflict.”
Payne stressed that the policy doesn’t affect every gathering. A group of friends who gather for yoga in a park wouldn’t be affected. If they hire an instructor to lead them in their practice, that instructor would be on the hook for the permit.
The policy begins Jan. 1. City staff will work with businesses to make sure they know about the change.
It prohibits commercial uses on tennis courts, in pools and in certain recreation areas in Pullen and Chavis parks.
Ron Wahula, who heads the Galloway method marathon training program in Raleigh, said he will pay the fee for access to the city’s greenways, which he called “a treasure.”
The program regularly brings hundreds of runners to the trails, as well as to routes in Cary and Durham.
“This is not the only place we run, but it’s one of the best places we run, so we will comply,” he said, adding that he hopes the policy will make using the parks and greenways better for everyone.
The city’s parks and recreation advisory board developed the policy during the past year.
Missy Currin, owner of FIT4MOM Midtown Raleigh, which holds fitness classes in parks, said the city was responsive to businesses’ needs as the policy was designed. She’s pleased with how it turned out.
“We don’t anticipate any bumps in the road,” she said. “If anything, it legitimizes our use of the park because we’ll have a permit.”