Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

September 2020

ACE Urges Governments to Open Parks & Public Spaces for In-Person Fitness

The closures of gyms and fitness centers across the country because of public health orders have not only had a negative impact on the economy, but also have put communities at risk for preventable diseases. That's why the American Council on Exercise (ACE), on behalf of its more than 90,000 certified exercise professionals and health coaches, is urging government officials to advance public policies that open parks and other publicly owned and managed spaces to allow for structured physical activity experiences facilitated.

The national nonprofit specifically calls for policies to support local fitness businesses and exercise professionals, explaining that communities with space for residents to engage in active, healthy lifestyles are considered a cornerstone of public health policy.

"It is imperative that government officials act quickly to address the issue and provide solutions to promote healthy lifestyles and support the thousands of struggling fitness sector professionals who have been forced to close brick-and-mortar locations," said Graham Melstrand, ACE's executive vice president, Engagement. "Through sharing these publicly owned and managed spaces, local governments can support small businesses in their community and ensure that residents have the option to engage in a sage physical activity experience that may ultimately lead to increased physical, emotional and mental health."

ACE urges government officials to consider the following course of action that could be piloted now during the pandemic, and extended after:

  • Require professionals teaching in parks to have a credible certification from an organization accredited by the NCCA and proof of adequate liability insurance.
  • Establish a licensing requirement with a reasonable permit fee to allow use of the parks.
  • Set a limit on the number of permits issued to ensure access to all users.
  • Require that appropriate waivers be signed by participants and program providers.
  • Work with the fitness community to establish a shared-use code of conduct, similar to trail use etiquette, that ensures that the fitness community is a good neighbor and has access to community open space resources for the long haul.
  • If a revenue share/royalty is needed, set it at a level that is not punitive to the exercise professional and their participants.

ACE also provided some examples of how governments have implemented these suggestions. The Saratoga Springs City Council approved opening several parks for local gyms, yoga studios and fitness trainers to host fitness sessions. The San Jose City Council approved the opening of city parks, downtown plazas, surface parking lots, street business areas and all city-owned facilities to fitness studios, as well as hair salons and restaurants. And the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department has proposed a program allowing local gyms to host outdoor fitness classes in city-designated outdoor spaces. In addition, San Francisco's program would reduce licensing costs by more than 90% for qualified businesses.

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