Local Push To Kick Fitness Classes Out Of Public Parks

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GASTONIA, NC — Pay up or get out of our parks. That’s the message Gastonia Recreation leaders are sending to businesses holding outdoor fitness classes.

Dozens of people braved the cold at Stowe park Monday night for an About Face Bootcamp. It’s one of nearly 150 outdoor classes held across the Charlotte area.

“Sometimes gyms can be intimidating for people. But out here, there’s no boundaries, there’s no limits. They can come here and feel comfortable,” said Jennifer Armstrong, founder of About Face Bootcamp.

Gastonia recreation leaders have a problem with instructors not paying to use their parks. Recreation Director Chuck Dellinger says one of the city’s biggest concerns with the fitness boot camps is that they are using taxpayer-funded parks for profit.

Dellinger says a city ordinance says parks and public places cannot be used for personal gain. Currently, vendors who host classes like karate have to pay the city 25 percent of their profit per class.

“When you ask me to pay, then I’m going to have to increase the rates of the people, and my goal is to make it affordable for everybody,” said Jennifer.

Bootcampers say it’s not fair, because instructors and clients already pay taxes.

“It’s just another way for Gastonia to pocket money and make revenue off of somebody else,” said Michael Williams, a Gastonia resident.

The city’s other major concern is liability – being blamed or sued if a bootcamper gets hurt.

Anderson says her clients sign a waiver so liability’s not a problem.   

“We’re just going to continue to grow with parks that are welcoming us in, and we’ll continue to give back to those communities,” said Armstrong.

Recreation leaders also want instructors to reserve space to avoid scheduling conflicts.

In Mecklenburg County, Park and Recreation charges instructors anywhere between $25-105 dollars per class to use a county park.