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City Officials Want to Start Charging Yoga and Fitness Instructors for Using Public Parks

in YD News
Free Yoga in Bryant Park in NYC is offered weekly in the summer.

Free Yoga in Bryant Park in NYC is offered twice weekly in the summer.

It’s summer! The sun is shining, the yogis are yoga-ing outdoors and many of them are in the park. The free public parks. Because they’re free and public and everything. Free to use by the public whether it be for yoga classes, jogging, lawn-tanning, weekend brunching, frolicking or whatever it is this guy likes to do on the grassy knolls.


But no, some party pooper officials in Denver want to break up all of our carefree merriment, by charging yogis and other fitness folks for using the public park for classes.

Since many of the instructors are paid (though not all, especially in NYC) for these outdoor classes, the city of Denver wants a chunk of that change. Officials say they are conducting businesses on public property, which, technically, is violating city ordinances. These yoga teachers and fitness instructors also happen to be technically paying taxes just like everyone else and have just as much right to use the park space as any other dude enjoying the sunshine while on a (work-related!) conference call or a bunch of urban hippies playing ultimate frisbee for 4 hours, right?

“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.”

Thanks, Jeff. We kind of think this is bullshit. OK, we get that there should be room for everyone at the park, but these classes last for, what, an hour and a half at the most, and isn’t it a good thing everyone’s exercising in the park? Sure, as long as all the commercial operators are happy, is that it?

“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,” Green said.

Something tells us all those other folks paying for permits are putting some major pressure on the old Parks and Rec Dept.

The Denver City Council is considering a permit and fee structure where a 90-minute class of 35 people or less would cost $4.50 to $32.50 depending on the park, season and time of day. So if you’re looking for a 5am class on a Tuesday in November, you’re going to get a bargain!

This is not an isolated thing, though. California’s Santa Monica has considered nabbing some extra cash from fitness classes in public parks, by charging a $100 annual fee and a whopping 15 percent of revenues from the outdoor classes, as well as banning certain parks.

It doesn’t go unnoticed that this is happening in two very outdoorsy and wellness-focused areas. You want to take away Denver and Santa Monica residents’ park privileges? Good luck. This wouldn’t fly in Boulder.

And if they ever tried to pull this crap in NYC, they might have a riot of yoga pants on their hands.

images via yogainyou.com; humansofnewyork.com




15 comments… add one
  • sarah

    I see their point. If it were another type of business other than yoga, you might agree then as well (a lot of us are against the use of public lands for private ranching, for example).

    Just because we really like yoga and can extol its virtues doesn’t mean the government is out to get us simply for asking someone who regularly conducts business on a public land to contribute a little for its cleanup and maintenance.

  • Katie P

    I think this is a valid conversation. Many parks charge people a permit fee if they want to reserve a spot for a special event or party. I could see doing the same for a yoga class.

  • Lala

    In Dolores Park in San Francisco, there is a boot camp that regularly meets in the only flat paved part of the park. It has the effect of excluding other park-goers from that area. Not cool. Especially because the instructor is getting paid.

  • Jessica

    I can see the city’s point. They’re not saying ‘we don’t want you yoga weirdos in our park’, they’re saying ‘look guys this park belongs to everyone and is for free activities. Conducting business for profit here goes against the entire purpose of a public park.’ I bet if they decided to do the classes in the park for free the city wouldn’t have so much of an issue with it.

  • Jenifer

    When I taught in parks, I rented the space.

    Because the weather could shift, i decided that I wanted to use a pavilion. Because it was running as a by-donation class, they gave me a standing day/time (so they couldn’t rent the pavilion to parties, etc) for a very modest monthly amount (I think it was something like $12? It was year ago now).

  • In Geneva Switzerland, offering Yoga or similar activities in parks are forbidden, nevermind if the the classes offered are free or of commercial value. With people offering classes it’s just a matter of time until they’ll get fines. : ( Good thing we have a huge outdoor deck to practice on…

  • Phoenix already charges for Yoga Rocks the Park. But it’s Arizona… so what do you expect?

  • arlet

    like many of these comments, i also see their point– but this could get tricky! if it’s a matter of getting a permit just to hold the space, I’m sure yogis wouldn’t care to bring a couple bucks cash in order to take an outdoor class. http://extendyoga.com

  • yogamuzz

    In Australia, the local councils (local government) tried that – we voted them out haha (well, we all disagreed and they backed down..) But on a serious note, our local officials are happy to see people use the open spaces for fitness including yoga, personal training etc as we now have 70% of adults classified as obese. Not sure how long it will last, but we run classes on the foreshore of Sydney Harbour – beautiful!

  • Never fear the collector is always near. This is a tricky area. I think if you are holding regular classes and getting paid for it then you should have some type of fee involved. Gym owners have to pay their lease or mortgage payments. The grey area in my mind is were a few friends get together to train. Will they be considered as a class also?

  • I can see where the city is coming from but $30 to have space in the park seems ridiculous. I could understand getting a permit that way the park isn’t overcrowded with people but I think charging for it is not alright.

  • julie

    Unless the yoga class is a free community service, the teacher should pay the property owner. 20-30% is fair.

  • I think we’re giving the parks a bit of an easy time here – don’t see why they have to ‘tax’ every single possible use of the park. Maybe, a yearly permit of say $30 or something, but otherwise I think this is just another excuse for government to squeeze money out of people. They’re thinking about doing it here in the UK now. Seems nuts to me – why does it have to be about the money? It’s not like these instructors using the park are making a ton of money themselves. We’re concerned about rising obesity, poor mental health, breakdown of communities etc. – well these classes help to combat this so shouldn’t they be encouraged? The benefit to people’s lives and the economy goes far beyond that gained from the amount the council will earn in fees.

  • Ken

    I think if you change the headline so that emotion is replaced with ration you get a different flavor.

    City Officials Want to Start Charging Yoga and Fitness Instructors for Using Public Parks
    City Officials Want to Start Charging For-Profit Businesses for Using Public Parks

    I don’t think for one second that the city is trying to “discourage” health and fitness. What they are evidently trying to do is ensure that public space is available to the public as intended.

  • Fiferbelle05

    So, if it’s a public park, can the instructor offer a class for free without needing a permit?

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