Fitness studios could soon pay much lower rates to use city parks for outdoor classes while indoor classes remain prohibited due to pandemic-related health orders.
On Tuesday (May 4), Kamloops Coun. Kathy Sinclair presented a joint notice of motion with Coun. Sadie Hunter, asking staff to open designated areas in up to six parks or green spaces throughout Kamloops for outdoor fitness classes. The notice of motion will be debated at the next council meeting, which will be held on May 18.
The motion stipulates classes be run by professional and insured organizations and that the space be operated on a first-come, first-served basis. It also suggests the city provide space for up to a year at rates comparable to those offered by the City of Kelowna.
“When we looked at Kelowna, Kelowna actually has an outdoor fitness permit and the intention of it is to offer space to businesses and non-profits that offer fitness classes and give it to them at a much reduced rate,” Sinclair told KTW.
The Little Apple’s Outdoor Fitness Activities in Parks permit fee is $84.90, plus tax, per month. A full season (April 1 to Oct. 31) can also be purchased for a 20 per cent discount, at $424.48, plus tax, for seven months. Kamloops charges $20 per day for use of premium space, such as Riverside Park, which equates to $600 per month, or $4,200 per season.
Sinclair said if the city were to provide space at a cost similar to that charged in Kelowna, it would be a compromise between fees currently charged and waiving fees entirely.
The initiative follows calls from the fitness community for support during the pandemic.
Group fitness studios have been forced to shutter multiple times amid public health orders and a Oxygen Yoga Fitness owner Dina McLeod told KTW how she and owners of other indoor group fitness studios continue to pay thousands of dollars for studio space they cannot utilize.
McLeod said the daily fee to use city parks poses another financial hurdle.
Sinclair said that in addition to helping fitness organizations during the pandemic, the initiative supports council longer-term goals, including promotion of healthy living. She said beyond it being a response to current health orders and their impact on businesses, the initiative could be replicated in future summers.
Sinclair noted the city has 74 parks covering 370 hectares, which, she said, is “a lot of space.”
“We’re proposing a one-year pilot and it could potentially go on from there,” she said.
The pandemic-related restrictions on indoor group exercise, indoor dining and indoor worship services are set to expire on May 25, after the Victoria Day long weekend, at which time Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry will review the situation.
The Kamloops Chamber of Commerce has also weighed in on the issue, urging council to open outdoor spaces to local fitness and wellness businesses at a reduced cost, or no cost.
“While we recognize that our parks and outdoor spaces are precious assets used by many different groups and that there will be logistical challenges in facilitating expanded use of our outdoor civic spaces, we believe that the unprecedented circumstances posed by the pandemic on our fitness and wellness businesses require urgent and generous action,” chamber executive director Acacia Pangilinan stated in a letter to council.
“The city has done amazing work with our local restaurants and other Kamloops businesses to find creative and effective solutions for businesses hit hard by restrictions through no fault of their own, and the Kamloops Chamber is confident that the city can also find equally effective and immediate solutions to help our fitness and wellness businesses survive as we all navigate toward the lifting of the public health restrictions.”