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Council committee postpones vote on parks-permit fee until next week

Want a workout? You don't need to go to one of Denver's many parks, or even to a for-profit gym. You can just go to the next meeting of Denver City Council's Land Use, Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. Yesterday, the committee took public comments on a proposal to charge fees for private exercise groups that use the city's parks -- and the discussion had people plenty hot and bothered. So hot, in fact, that the committee decided not to take action immediately, but instead wait until next Tuesday's meeting to vote on whether to send the proposed ordinance on to the full Denver City Council.

Lauri Dannemiller, the manager of the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation, was on hand to explain the proposal. Currently, the city requires permits for use of its athletic fields -- including Sonny Lawson Field, where the Homeless Diamond played its first game yesterday -- as well as other designated areas, and also requires permits for special events, including races and festivals. Vendors, too, must have permits. But so far, private exercise groups -- which range from mommies pushing strollers to packs of runners to full-on Crossfit programs -- have been exempt.

Under this proposal, exercise groups that charge fees for participants would have to get permits to use Denver's parks. The fees for these permits would vary depending on the park, the time of day and the size of the group. Even at the very lowest level, though, some opponents argue that the cost would be prohibitive for casual, low-income groups,

But Dannemiller told councilmembers that the fees would help the city not just maintain the parks physically, but also manage use. "It is about the impacts, fairness to people who are using the parks, and it's there for safety so that we can regulate the numbers so there aren't fifteen classes," she said. "Are there less impacts from a stroller on a road than a boot camp? Yes. That is why we tiered it differently."

Next week's meeting starts at 10:30 a.m. in City Hall.

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