$150 fee considered for commercial activities in Raleigh parks

ccampbell@newsobserver.comJuly 3, 2014 

— Businesses that hold fitness classes and other activities in city parks could soon have to pay for the privilege.

Raleigh parks officials are considering a permit requirement to keep tabs on for-profit activities and ensure they don’t negatively impact other park visitors. A subcommittee of the city’s appointed parks advisory board will meet Thursday to discuss the proposed policy.

The policy would require each for-profit group to apply for a $75 permit every six months, detailing where and when events will be held. The groups will have to prove they have liability insurance and a valid business license.

Assistant parks director Scott Payne said the department occasionally gets complaints about large activities in parks. “We also need to make sure the city’s interests regarding liability as well as the city’s upkeep of the park are protected,” he said. “We’re not trying to ban it, we’re just trying to make sure that we know what it is.”

But some businesses that use parks say they shouldn’t have to pay $150 to use a public facility. “As a city resident who pays her taxes and pays her business taxes to the city of Raleigh, I’d like to use the city parks without a business fee or permitting process,” said Missy Currin, owner of Fit4Mom/Stroller Strides of Midtown Raleigh.

Currin’s business holds fitness classes that allow mothers to exercise alongside their babies. Some of the classes take place at Fred Fletcher Park, where Currin said she’s rarely heard any concerns from other park visitors.

“We’re really mindful of sharing our space with other people – trying to stay to one side of the path, making sure we’re not blocking anything,” she said.

Ron Wahula, who heads the Raleigh Galloway method training program, also voiced concerns about the policy. His organization brings out 350-400 runners for regular Saturday runs along city greenway trails.

Wahula said the instructors stress trail etiquette and make sure they leave plenty of room for cyclists and others. “We’ve been doing this for 15 years, and we don’t have a single case of an accident that occurred on the greenway,” he said.

But Payne said some groups do cause problems for city parks. “There may be a group that’s doing a fitness activity, and they may be bringing fitness equipment in,” he said. “Sometimes they may leave it there. (An activity) may be in an emergency spillway overflow for a lake, and they may not know that.”

Payne says the fee structure is similar to permits required of commercial photographers. They’re required to pay $75 per year to take photos in parks.

The parks advisory board will make a recommendation on the policy in the coming months; if it backs the change, the Raleigh City Council will have the final say.

If the policy is approved, Currin said she’s not sure how the city will enforce it. “It’s hard to distinguish between what is an informal gathering and what is a formal business,” she said.

Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter

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