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City Council, Opinion, Fitness, Santa Monica

The Time Has Come To Address Palisades Park Fitness Classes: Letter To The Editor

Posted Apr. 21, 2013, 8:33 am

Letter To The Editor

Dear Editor,

When I first started offering outdoor fitness training classes in Palisades Park more than 10 years ago, the park was full of people using drugs, drinking alcohol, smoking, littering, and making other park users feel uncomfortable.

As the popularity of outdoor fitness classes increased, those people were displaced by individuals who were motivated, set a positive example for the community and bolstered the local economy.

However, I also recognized that the increased popularity of these classes in city parks was going to create a unique challenge that would eventually have to be addressed. That time has come.

The Santa Monica City Council will vote next week on a set of recommendations to more formally regulate outdoor fitness training in city parks.

With few exceptions, these proposed changes are the right answer.

However, the recommendation to ban group fitness classes of two or more people in Palisades Park is excessive for a city that places such a high priority on the personal health and welfare of its citizens, and a city where fitness and an active lifestyle are part of the culture.

A better solution is for the City to partner with these small business owners to establish a set of clear rules and regulations allowing the continued, respectful use of Palisades Park for group training.

Formal permitting, verification of appropriate certification, liability insurance, police permitting and clearly outlining allowable equipment use in the park are all very good measures.

Trainers who wish not to follow these rules will be cited and fined, generating revenue for the city.

I’m part of a coalition of trainers in Santa Monica who are trying to work with the Recreation and Parks Commission and the Santa Monica City Council to find balanced solutions that will benefit the city, park neighbors and users as well as support these small businesses that provide a valuable service to the community.

In the world of health and fitness, I encourage my clients to live with balance. Anything in excess can be unhealthy, even excessive exercising or dieting. The same rules apply to making regulations. Not allowing group fitness classes in Palisades Park is excessive regulation.

Rules should be put in place to manage the majority, not the exceptions. Exceptions should be managed through enforcement.

Most trainers are very respectful and take good care of the parks. They are considerate of the neighbors and other park users. Then there are a few trainers who are disrespectful of accepted protocols and courtesies.

It’s unfortunate that these bad apples are forcing the City Council to consider these extreme regulatory measures. Banning group training in Palisades Park serves only to penalize those small business owners who are already playing by the rules.

The majority of outdoor fitness trainers in Santa Monica are just trying to make a fair and honest living while providing a service that encourages a healthy, active way of life.

In a country where 2/3 of the population is overweight, creating rules that discourage regulated group fitness is counter intuitive. I hope that City Council will work with us to find balance.

Sonki Hong, Founder and CEO of Sonki Fitness

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Apr. 21, 2013, 12:41:01 pm

Hanna Hartnell said...

I've been walking my dog in the Palisades Park for nearly 16 years. It has indeed improved over the time, and whether it's because of fitness classes or police enforcement, it's a more pleasant experience. I agree with Sonki Hong that fair regulations are a better direction than extreme limitations. My vote would be to have a balanced approach for a period of time and then review. Like exercise, you don't always get it right the first time, but eventually there are great results if you work at it!

Apr. 21, 2013, 1:31:24 pm

Patrisha Thomson said...

I am in complete agreement with Sonki Hong. If fitness leaders limit their use of the park to low population hours and locations in the park, they are an asset to the community and display a tremendous value of the existence of city parks. What better way to enjoy fitness and yoga group meetings than outdoors in a city park!

Apr. 22, 2013, 3:56:39 pm

John Benedict said...

Sonki runs one of the few groups that show respect for their neighbors. But because of the disrespectful ones that seem to feel entitled I suggest the additional considerations: 1- Charge non-Santa Monica residents more for classes than residents much like the SMC pool or tennis courts do. Or give a discount to SM residents since we're paying the taxes to maintain the parks already. 2- limit the amount of space each class can take up and require ample clearance so other park goers can safely pass thru. Nothing worse than a 10 person class that runs drill around half the park. 3- regulate large classes running the Montana stairs. Those steps are dangerous when there are too many people on them.

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