Boot camp given the boot

Exercising in a pleasant park setting helped Julie Johnston stick to her workout regimen and shed 60 pounds.

Johnston, 25, figured that other people might commit to exercising if they could look forward to fresh air, green grass and a backdrop of mountains, rather than a gym's stuffy air and bland walls.

She formed Boot Camp Las Vegas last year to offer aerobic and muscle-toning sessions in local parks for a fee.

But Johnston has run into stiff resistance from Clark County officials who banned her exercise groups this week from county parks. Her boot camp is a business, the officials say, and isn't allowed to earn profits while on county parkland.

"It's so crazy what they're doing to us," Johnston said. "None of this makes sense to me. It never has."

Her groups range from five to 15 people, and they go out of their way to avoid infringing on other park users, she said.

The county parks chief says that if he lets in one business, however small, he'd open the floodgates to enterprises that want to use public land for financial gain.

"It's unfair to the taxpayers of Clark County to subsidize a for-profit business like Boot Camp Las Vegas," said Leonard Cash, the county's parks and recreation director.

Everybody from hot dog vendors to karate instructors to hot air balloonists would flock to the parks if they thought they could get away with it, Cash said.

Johnston's only option is to plead her case to county commissioners, who would decide whether to let her run a business in the parks, Cash said. He added that he'll advise the commission to deny her request.

Cash drafted a letter Feb. 22 giving Johnston 60 days to resolve her case with the commission and allowing her to operate in the parks in the meantime. But last week, Cash issued an order for Johnston to cease and desist by March 25.

Cash based the firmer measure partly on a written complaint from the Mountain's Edge homeowners association about boot camps held at Exploration Peak Park.

The association president accused Johnston's exercise groups of blocking pedestrian paths, damaging the sod and using children's playground equipment. Johnston also leaves her truck and trailer, emblazoned with ads, sideways in the parking lot, taking up a half-dozen spaces, the letter states.

However, Kristen Watson, 31, a Mountain's Edge resident and boot camp member, said the complaints are overblown.

Most mornings, few people are in the park while the members work out, Watson said. They run up the mountain, return to a grassy field for some exercises and never go near the playground equipment, she said.

Watson said boot camp members don't damage the park any more than other users do, and the group offers a convenient workout and camaraderie.

"It's actually going to hurt Mountain's Edge not to have it," she said.

In a written statement, a Mountain's Edge representative said that because the association is in charge of the park's maintenance, Johnston needed the group's OK to operate there. The association's board later deadlocked on a vote Wednesday about allowing the boot camps at the park.

"So it's a no-go for now," Johnston said.

She questioned why the county was being so rigid.

The code she was shown bars vendors that sell items, not a group using a park for its legitimate purpose -- outdoor exercise, she said.

Another code states that a company can hold picnics, parties, festivals and group exercises if it makes a reservation, Johnston said. She would be willing to reserve space and pay a fee, but the county won't give her that option, she said.

She said the cities of Las Vegas, Henderson and North Las Vegas have no problem with her running boot camps at their parks.

Henderson park officials were unable to confirm by late Wednesday whether Johnston had permission to run boot camps at the city's parks.

Diana Paul, a Las Vegas spokeswoman, said Johnston received a permit last year just for Centennial Hills Park. That permit has run out, so any boot camps there are now unauthorized, Paul said.

Cash said the code Johnston was citing about a company reserving space is meant for nonprofit organizations.

The codes are intended simply to preserve the parks for public use, he said.

It would be "unconscionable" for a family to be deprived of a play area at a park because a business was using it, Cash said. "I can't imagine doing that."

Other entrepreneurs have tried to cash in on the county's parks, he said. He recalled a tennis instructor who showed up at public courts to offer paid lessons before being stopped.

"It's not new," Cash said.

Contact reporter Scott Wyland at or (702) 455-4519.