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Yoga, fitness classes could be headed outdoors in Port Moody

You could soon be able to do your gym workout in a Port Moody park after city council endorsed the idea as part of its program to help small businesses in the city weather the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Leanne Evans, who owns F45 Fitness, Shannon Day, of Lift Fitness, and Dawn Slykhuis, of RVN Wellness, pitched their idea to Port Moody council to allow health and wellness providers access to outdoor public spaces, like the Queen Street Plaza, to conduct workouts.

Yoga classes, kettle ball workouts and even Zumba sessions could soon be coming to Port Moody parks and public spaces.

But they won’t necessarily be conducted by city recreation staff.

Tuesday, council’s committee of the whole asked the city’s parks and recreation commission to weigh in on the idea of opening Port Moody’s parks to private fitness providers to help offset some of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, as part of the city’s temporary assistance program for businesses that allows them to expand their commercial operations into public spaces.

In a report, Port Moody’s manager of recreation services, Jim LaCroix, said currently only the grass field at Heritage Mountain elementary school is used by outdoor boot camps, which are charged a rental rate of $28.90 per class.

But the new initiative could allow fitness providers to book space in other parks, as well as the Queen Street plaza.

Ron Higo, the city’s general manager of community services, told councillors a rental fee similar to that charged to the boot camps could be applied to paid classes, while it would be waived for free sessions.

Dawn Slykhuis, who runs RVN Wellness, a yoga studio on St. Johns Street, said getting access to public outdoor spaces is good news for providers and their clients as everyone struggles with the health risks and mental health toll of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Movement is one of the number one recommendations I give clients to improve their mental health, and outdoor fitness is a more accessible option for many,” said Slykhuis, who made a pitch to council for access to parks last December, along with colleagues, Leanne Evans, of F45 Fitness, and Shannon Day, of Lift.

Slykhuis said while the recent acknowledgement by provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, that gyms and yoga studios haven’t been a contributor to the spread of COVID-19 has provided some reassurance to clients, the ever-changing landscape of public health restrictions has been a challenge for the entire industry. She added being able to  holder larger classes in outdoor space will help keep some small fitness businesses afloat.

In addition to possible fees, the staff report also recommended a booking system to prevent overcrowding and providers would have to carry a minimum of $5-million liability insurance that includes the city as an additional party.