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Highland Mommies fave Stroller Strides exempt from Denver park-permit rules -- for now

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Several years ago, the powerful Highlands Mommies put a stop to a policy that would have required private workout groups to pay for permits to operate in Denver parks. But after receiving complaints about the proliferation of such groups, Parks and Rec decided to consider the policy again. It was adopted in May -- though there's currently a moratorium on enforcing it for groups that use the walking paths, such as Mommies-favorite Stroller Strides.

That's because there is no permit that suits the needs of mobile groups like Stroller Strides, in which moms power-walk with their babies and do strength training exercises along the way. The current permits are designed to let groups or individuals rent a particular part of the park, such as a field for soccer practice.

"We put a moratorium on requiring a permit for commercial activity while we sit down to think about what the policy should look like," says Jeff Green, spokesman for the city's Parks and Recreation Department. "We want to make it so they can operate in the parks and do so within the rules and regulations." Green says the department expects to host stakeholder meetings to discuss a proposed permit and fee structure in early 2013.

A city ordinance that's been on the books for decades (and is on view below) says its unlawful to sell any goods or services in the parks "without legal authorization." But park rangers can't enforce city ordinances; they enforce Parks and Rec Rules and Regulations -- and until May 11, there wasn't a rule that coincided with the city ordinance.

Sarah Johnson owns the Stroller Strides Highlands franchise. She first heard about the new rule (which is also on view below) in October, when she got an e-mail from a park ranger informing her of it and suggesting she contact the permit office. "There was a week and a half when they kicked everybody out of all the parks," Johnson says. "Then people started raising H-E-double-hockey-sticks."

By the time Parks and Rec staffers realized they didn't have a permit for mobile groups and put in place the enforcement moratorium, Johnson's group was getting ready to head inside for the winter anyway. Currently, the group gathers at the Clare Gardens gymnasium. But Johnson hopes to begin hosting outdoor classes again on April 1. If Denver hasn't come up with a policy that works for her by then, she says she may take her group to Edgewater.

"Their parks and rec department has already embraced us with open arms and said, 'We'd love to have you,'" she says. "They are offering it to us for free."

Denver will likely charge a fee and, Green says, the fee may vary from park to park; permits for busier parks, such as Wash Park, may cost more. The dates and times that private workout groups can operate in certain parks may also be limited -- or prohibited entirely -- depending on how much the park is used, he says.

But Green says the department also understands that the fee structure has to be affordable for groups that may only charge their customers $5 or $10 a class. "We need to find out how they operate and figure out something that works," he says.

Continue reading to view the city ordinance and the new Parks and Rec rule. City ordinance:

Sec. 39-11. - Sales and gambling.

(a) It shall be unlawful, without legal authorization, to offer or sell any goods, services or thing for sale within any park, parkway, mountain park or other recreational facility, or on the streets and sidewalks within three hundred (300) feet of the boundary of the same.

(b) It shall be unlawful for any person to participate in gambling, including social gambling, within any park, parkway, mountain park or other recreational facility.

Parks and Rec rule:

9.0 Sales and gambling. (39-11) The regulation and control of the sales of goods and services, as specified herein, and the prohibition of gambling, as specified herein, is important to the safe and harmonious public use of Park Facilities. ....

9.1.5 Sales mean any offering, soliciting, vending, bartering, bargaining and/or delivery of goods and/or services to or with the public. Sales include food and beverage vending, private recreational, personal training or exercise program services, and solicitation for passage by any type of vehicle, motorized or non-motorized (including horses and other ride animals), for hire or gratis. It does not include the sale of goods and/or services at a permitted Assembly when the goods and/or services are an integral and related part of the expression of free speech in a Park Facility that is a public forum; however, the sale of goods and/or services unrelated to the free speech being expressed in the Park Facility will be subject to the restrictions and prohibitions set forth in this section 9.0. ....

9.2 Sales Authorization: The sale of goods or services are not allowed in a Park Facility unless authorized by a Concession License, a Contract or a Permit. The sales of goods or services are not allowed on the streets and sidewalks within three hundred (300) feet of the boundary of a Park or Recreational Facility unless authorized by a Concession License, a Contract or a Permit.

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Unsolved murders in Colorado: Read ten more personal stories of victims."

Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at melanie.asmar@westword.com

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