Parkrun organisers and runners condemn decision to charge for park usage
Via Get Surrey on 14 APR 2016 Author: NATASHA SALMON
Council’s decision to charge labelled ‘shortsighted’ while Surrey and North East Hampshire Parkruns say they will remain free of charge .
The decision by a Bristol parish council to charge a free fitness event to use their green space has been condemned by organisers of Parkrun in Surrey and north east Hampshire.
The runs are organised by volunteers in green spaces and have had almost 933,000 runners take part in the last two years.
However Stoke Gifford Parish Council in Bristol went against the “founding principles” of Parkrun and decided to charge the Little Stoke event to use their park.
This will end that particular Parkrun from taking place and chief operating officer for Parkrun, Tom Williams, said: “Parkrun has had unprecedented success in engaging the least active and encouraging them to exercise regularly.
“Imposing a charge at one event is something that contradicts our founding principles and would set a precedent that threatens our future.”
“It is clear that a per-event or per-runner charge simply would not be sustainable and would threaten our free-to-participate ethos.
“By agreeing to a charge in relation to use of the land at Little Stoke Park we would be establishing a precedent that would put the future of parkrun at risk.”
Following the wide discussion surrounding the topic we approached the Parkruns in Surrey and North East Hampshire for their take on the topic.
The Cranleigh Parkrun is at Knowle Park and was started in October 2014 by local business owner Martin Bamford.
Mr Bamford said the organisers and parish council recognised the need for free events and therefore there’s would remain so.
“Forcing local parkrun groups to pay goes against the free to participate principle of parkrun events.
“I feel very sorry for all of the volunteers and runners at Little Gifford parkrun, who will have devoted countless hours to establishing and hosting this community event.
“It feels very short-sighted on the part of the parish council, at a time when the national faces a massive public health challenge around obesity and inactivity.
“Here at Cranleigh parkrun, we have an excellent relationship with our landowners, Cranleigh Parish Council and the Knowle Park Initiative, which both recognise the importance of the free-to-participate principle behind parkrun events.
“Since we started Cranleigh parkrun, we have hosted 81 free events with more than 3,800 runs covering 19,280km, from 1,040 different runners.
“We look forward to a long and happy future for Cranleigh parkrun, and welcome anyone who wants to join us on a Saturday morning for a free, timed 5km run around beautiful parkrun.”
Alice Holt Forest
The Alice Holt Park run, just outside Farnham, hope the Little Stoke Parkrun would only be cancelled temporarily and they would find another location.
Paula Patterson, event director at Alice Holt, said there is no risk of their event stopping any time soon.
“Parkrun will not pay to use the parks so if Surrey parks decided to do this then that would be the end of any Parkrun in that park.
“Alice Holt Parkrun takes place on Forestry Commission land and, as such, is not affected by any decision made by parish/town/borough/county councils.
“As far as we are aware there are no plans by the Forestry Commission to charge us to use the land we run on but if they did then we would have to cease or find an alternative venue.”
The Alice Holt parkrunners pay for their parking while they are at the site which supports the upkeep on the Hampshire forest.
Run organiser at Rushmoor, Martin Sterio, said their were no future plans to charge for the event held at the army training ground in Farnborough.
Retired Runnymede neighbourhood inspector and MBE holder Roger Nield regularly takes part in the Rushmoor Parkrun, with his wife Lucy, and said the decision by Little Gifford Parish Council was “foolish”.
“We have been going for a year and half and there are some people who have made the most incredible improvements.
“It is great for people who want to get into running but like myself are not part of a running club.
“You can run or wobble and at Rushmoor we had 227 people last weekend of all ages. You can run with your dog or push your child in a pram, it doesn’t matter, it is for eveyone.
“This business in Somerset is a really churlish move and a bit foolish by this council, especially with how big parkrun is in the country and across the world.”
Mr Nield, who is about to start training for a marathon, said its also an opportunity for people to appreciate their green spaces too.
Organisers at Frimley Lodge parkrun would not comment on the news from Bristol however they reassured Get Surrey that there were no plans for charges to be introduced at their events.
Liz Read from Aldershot takes part in the Frimley Lodge event every week and thinks the actions of the parish council in Little Gifford are “disgusting”.
“Parkrun is a community event free to everyone and it encourages people to try and be active in a safe and friendly environment.
“on of the key beliefs of Parkrun is that it will always be free to all.
“I have done 58 Parkruns now and if Frimley had to stop it would ruin my Saturdays and I would miss the social side.”
Woking Borough Council confirmed there were no plans to charge Parkrun to use Woking Park, which many runners will be relieved to hear.
The organisers of the Woking Parkrun would not comment on the actions of Stoke Gifford council but a Parkrun spokesman said: “None of our other 850 worldwide events is under threat, and this is the first time in 12 years we’ve had a council suggest a charge.
“We have events on local authority managed land in addition to sites managed by the Forestry Commission, National trust, Woodland Trust, many runs are in country parks, nature reserves, on sandy beaches etc and our volunteers work closely with them through the set-up process and going forward to ensure the events work for everyone.”
There are currently no plans to bring in charges at the Guildford Parkrun in Stoke Park.
The organisers could not comment on the events but reiterated Parkrun’s general statement that no charges would be brought to the event.
Graham Evans MP, and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Running, said: “Parkruns provide an invaluable way of utilising public spaces and getting the whole community involved – young and old – in physical activity, which we all know is massively important for our health and wellbeing.
“I am a huge fan of parkrun and regularly take part with my family – the children love it, and my wife and I love being out in the fresh air using our beautiful parks and countryside with them.
“I sincerely hope that a solution will be found to enable Little Stoke parkrun to continue.”
There are currently no plans to bring in charges at the Reigate Parkrun in Priory Park.