Of parks and profit

Two groups of people are using a Clark County park. On one side of an open field, a bunch of college students are playing a friendly, impromptu game of soccer. On the other side, a paid trainer is leading a dozen taxpayers in a vigorous conditioning exercise. Neither group is disturbing anyone or hindering access to public space. Both are using the park in a perfectly appropriate manner. But only one is welcome.

For well over a year, county officials have worked diligently to keep popular fitness companies out of their parks. Never mind that all sorts of people profit from county parks, from league umpires to maintenance crews. The idea that someone not employed by the government might make a living from encouraging citizens to get outside and sweat on the fields their tax dollars support has long been unacceptable.

Boot Camp Las Vegas founder Julie Johnston has taken her 18-month fight for common sense all the way to the County Commission, and has even changed her business to a nonprofit organization to try to comply with county policies while keeping her clients on a path to health.

This week, the County Commission heard Ms. Johnston’s personal appeal to allow her enterprise to operate in county parks, as she does in other jurisdictions. Commissioners are considering imposing fees on businesses and nonprofits that want to conduct fitness activities in parks while restricting them to designated areas. Ms. Johnston pointed out that the proposed fee structure could cost her up to $30,000 per year while denying her charges the ability to move freely through parks. She would have to offer her classes elsewhere.

“Who is this going to help, and how?” Ms. Johnston asked the commission on Tuesday. “It certainly isn’t going to help your residents.”

Indeed. Unfortunately, these days government is less concerned with helping residents and more concerned with controlling them. It would be one thing for a tennis instructor to take over a public court for weeks and deny casual players the opportunity to enjoy the sport. A taxpaying trainer guiding taxpaying residents through unoccupied, open space is entirely another.

Commissioners delayed a vote on the proposed code and fee structure. When they take it up next month, they should kill it, give Ms. Johnston’s operation their blessing and get out of her way.

Or they could join some of her training sessions. After all, if they’re not going to use county parks, who are they trying to protect from Ms. Johnston in the first place?

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