You want to do what in the park?

My latest x-posting from Austin Metro blog
I’m conflicted over this report in the Statesman about the City’s project to levy a business fee from personal trainers and businesses using the parks and trails for coaching, training etc. Thanks to @mizmizuno for the heads-up and for Sarah Coppola at the Statesman for the original story.

As a typical Type-A over-achiever, I can see the benefits of understanding who’s doing it, getting the data, licensing them, making sure they have insurance etc. But on the other hand it seems like such a “dumb” idea for a city who wants to be a leader in fitness.

I’m conflicted not for the fee, but for the bureaucracy and practicality that comes with this type of project. It’s really not the Austin way it would seem, and comes from the same sort of obsessive, compulsive minds that want to track and regulate every aspect of our lives from traffic and speed cameras, to registration and ID cards, to snooping into what goes on in your own property.

So assuming the fee isn’t the issue, although clearly it is for the trainers and businesses, how would you administer this? So the Yoga teacher who runs classes on the Pier at the new pond in the park west of the Palmer Events center has to pay the fee. The classes are three times a week, 5-9 people, completely quiet, non-intrusive.

Compare that to the big coached run groups who meet at RunTex and then set off around the trail. Are they being coached, are they not? Are they using the park, are they not? Do the pay the fee do they not ?

The easy answer is to have Parks inspectors, or park Police patrol around on Segways or bicycles, with digital cameras, with wifi uplinks, taking pictures of anyone who looks like they might be a group, might be being trained. Issue compliance notices for those who can’t show their license, and on a 2nd or 3rd offense, taking DNA samples and issuing prosecution orders or fines.

Sound ridiculous ? Check out this BBC report on London Parks Police and the fears about their powers and scope. See also this piece on Newham Parks Police, as well as many others.

Doesn’t sound like a good idea to me, and it’s not about the money.

The parks should be open to all comers, only if they want to reserve or restrict the rights of normal users should businesses and trainers pay a fee. If the Yoga group doesn’t want me on the pier, or the RunTex run group object to me following along behind them, or with them, then they pay. I know from experience that neither is true!

Anything generally open to the public should be free.

I think this is something that's going to push people AWAY from parks, and push personal trainers and fitness people AWAY from Austin.
Allow me to offer a mini rebuttal
even though it's already gotten me in trouble with the wife -

"Anything generally open to the public should be free."


For years it hasn't been allowed for people to do swim lessons for $ at city pools. They're open to the public but if someone like a swim instructor is monopolizing the resource (aka, lanes in this case) they should be paying a fee for that.

I don't think the blanket $500 fee is a great solution either, just for the record.