Possible changes to Signal Hill park ordinance highlight popularity of outdoor fitness programs

CJ Dablo/Signal Tribune Stretching before a run, these two local residents prefer the outdoor view at Hilltop Park in Signal Hill to a gym.

CJ Dablo/Signal Tribune Stretching before a run, these two local residents prefer the outdoor view at Hilltop Park in Signal Hill to a gym.

CJ Dablo
Staff Writer

Signal Hill may have a good problem with its parks– they’re just too popular with the people who want to stay in shape. City officials are preparing to propose several changes to the current park ordinance at next month’s Council meeting, but there are still outstanding issues of just how to manage the varied interests of the groups, especially among those who have staked their claim on the parks for their exercise routines.
Mayor Michael Noll praised the department that is responsible for organizing regular patrols of the city’s green spaces and that regularly monitors activity in the parks all around Signal Hill.
“I think the recreation department is doing an excellent job, but we do have to fine-tune some things,” Noll said in a telephone interview this week. The mayor expressed concerns with professional trainers and other for-profit exercise groups who have set up shop in the public parks. On any given week, local residents on their regular jog might see boot camps or outdoor yoga classes in session in addition to the kids and adults on the basketball courts for a friendly pickup game. Presently, there is no permit process in place for the professional trainers and exercise instructors who charge for their services outdoors.
“We don’t want to take away from what we have designed the park for,” Noll said, as he described how some trainers stake out areas and facilities for their group and ask outsiders to stay outside of their space in a public park. He added that residents have also voiced complaints about limited parking, especially around Discovery Well Park.
The area is a prime location for personal trainers like James Howell who says he regularly holds boot-camp training sessions. Howell meets about five to seven clients at nearby Hilltop Park. He is one of the enterprising personal trainers who want to take advantage of the panoramic vistas that have set Signal Hill apart. He says that many of his clients sign up for sessions three to four times a week.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Howell explained why an outdoor program at Hilltop Park is an essential part of his training sessions.
“With the beautiful views, it takes your mind off the pain,” Howell said of the tough workout he prescribes for his clients during his boot-camp sessions. “You don’t really realize how hard the body is pushing it.”
Howell sees Signal Hill’s move towards regulation in a positive light. He says he hopes that Signal Hill will provide more structure to their requirements as City officials work out the details surrounding their permitting process.
Community Services Director Pilar Alcivar-McCoy confirmed in an interview Tuesday that the public will have a chance to discuss the proposed changes to the park ordinance before the Council votes on the ordinance amendment next month.
Other changes to the park ordinance will include a change in the fees for those who would like to reserve picnic shelters for groups of 25 people or more. The proposed changes offer a reduction in fees to residents and an increase in fees for non-residents.
According to Alcivar-McCoy, professional coaches would have to adhere to requirements if they want to use the parks as their training facilities after an ordinance is in place and the permitting process has been established. The community services director said in a telephone interview that they would likely be required to pay a fee, schedule time for their activities and provide proof of insurance.
In addition to determining a permitting process, many of the recommended changes to the park rules are attempts at clarification of the ordinance, according to Alcivar-McCoy. The community services director explained that the current ordinance has outdated language or was not specific enough for enforcement.
“It’s the same things that we’ve always had. [It’s] just that the language now in this day and age…has to be much more specific in order to be enforceable,” Alcivar-McCoy said. “So that’s really the biggest change…making the language clearer and more precise and more inclusive of all the possible violations.” ß

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