Glenwood Springs fitness instructor asks city why permit to hold classes in park was denied
Policy that dictates what for-profit activities should be officially sanctioned within Glenwood Springs parks is being reviewed by city staff and will likely come before the city council for final approval later this summer.
The fairness of the policy was questioned during Thursday night’s city council meeting, after T-R-I Valley Training owner and fitness instructor Sharma Phillips spoke during the public comment period to ask the council’s permission to hold fitness classes in a city park for pay.
Phillips moved the fitness classes outdoors to provide a safe place for class participants to keep their bodies and minds active during the pandemic.
Prior to that, Phillips offered virtual classes.
After advertising her in-person classes in the park, Phillips said the Glenwood Springs Community Center notified her that she’d need a permit to operate her business in the park.
Her permit was denied by the city, which the City Attorney Karl Hanlon said was due to Phillip’s plan to hold more than three for-profit events in one year at the park.
Three is the number of allowable events a for profit business can conduct in a public park, per city policy.
“They told me if I worked for them I’d be able to hold classes in the park, so long as I was doing it for the city, but I could not do it for myself to make money,” Phillips said.
Phillips charges $10 for drop-ins to attend a course, or $25 to attend one of the courses four times per month. Four courses are offered, according to Phillip’s Facebook page for T-R-I Valley Training. To attend all four courses during the month, Phillips charges a $50 fee.
Phillips has since moved her courses to private property, she said.
Since then, Phillips said she was contacted by a detective with the Glenwood Springs Police Department who questioned her as though she had committed a crime.
“I have not located anything in municipal code as to why I wasn’t able to conduct my fitness class in the city park,” Phillips said.
While the city manages businesses permitted to conduct such business within city parks, it’s regulated by city policy rather than code, said Debra Figueroa.
“We don’t know everything that goes, but we don’t allow for profit businesses to run private businesses in our parks,” Figueroa said. “If we did, all our parks would be commercialized.”
Figueroa said cities typically don’t allow a lot of commercialization in parks.
Mayor Jonathan Godes said that when he served as the Aspen recreation activity director, there was a revenue share between the city and private businesses.
“So, if a private business wanted to do something, it was a partnership with the city,” Godes said. “It can exist, from my understanding it doesn’t exist now but we will have something to come before us shortly.”
Councilor Shelly Kaup said she would like to see the policy decision come before council.
“I would like to see the use of our parks optimized for the use or our public,” Kaup said. “I do understand what (Figueroa) is saying about the commercialization of our park, but I do think there are some things that lend themselves to the good of the public, such as exercise groups in the early morning hours when they aren’t too busy with people using the park.”
Hanlon and the city’s parks and recreation director, Brian Smith, are reviewing the policy and will present their recommendations for changes to the city in June.
Reporter Shannon Marvel can be reached at 605-350-8355 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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