On Tuesday of last week, city council adopted an ordinance that prohibits private use of park space unless business owners meet certain conditions. The conditions include providing a certificate of insurance, clearing the city of all liability and receiving permission from the department head of parks, recreation, and cultural resources.
Scott Payne, the assistant director of PRCR, said the issue of businesses using park space and greenway trails came to them from complaints of citizens. PRCR then began to investigate the issue, revealing that businesses were utilizing the park space and greenway trails for a variety of purposes.
Stroller Fitness, Obstacle Course Training Among Commercial Uses
These uses included marathon training, stroller fitness, obstacle course training, car detailing and washing, and off leash dog training. Because the businesses owners were operating without a COI that cleared the city of Raleigh from all liability, if someone were to be injured during these activities, the city could have been sued.
A significant amount of background work came as PRCR was investigating the situation. Other city departments were involved, including the risk management department and the finance department. The parks, recreation, and greenway advisory board reached out to all the businesses during this process.
The problem PRCR ran into was that there was no ordinance to stop this from happening. So on March 3, 2014, PRGAB started to work on policy development and eventually included it on that year’s work plan. Meanwhile, PRCR was finding the issue reflected in other communities across the nation.
Business Owners Influenced Final Draft of Ordinance
The development of the ordinance was done in conjunction with the city attorney’s office. Two attorneys worked on the ordinance to make sure it was consistent with the policy being developed between PRGAB and PCRC. The ordinance itself is five pages, and includes the $25 permit fee, a permit that can only be issued after providing a COI and approval from the PRCR head.
Business owners were active throughout the process and influenced the drafting of the final ordinance. In one case, business owners said the fee was too high and so the fee was brought down. In another case, business owners felt a semiannual permit renewal requirement was too burdensome, so the permit renewal requirement was changed to an annual basis.
One important aspect of the ordinance is detailing what is “appropriate for park use.” While a marathon training session on the greenway trails might be suitable, car washing and detailing might not be. The hinge point is the phrase “recreational activity.”
Marathon Trainer on Getting Permit: “Of course.”
Ron Wahula is the program director for Raleigh Galloway, an organization that preps members for running marathons. He said he was attracted to the greenway trails because the members would sometimes run 8, 12, 15, or 20 miles and the distance was so great that they couldn’t fit it in to any of parks.
“We can run as far as we want on the greenway,” Wahula said.
Wahula and his organization were involved in the process of forming the ordinance “very early on” and was reached out to by Payne to participate. He plans to get a permit when required, saying he would never want to lose his Raleigh runs, and that he wouldn’t be surprised if other cities and municipalities follow suit.