ROCKY RIVER, Ohio — Ginny Walters has been conducting an outdoor yoga class in Rocky River Park beside Lake Erie for 22 years. Recently, city officials told her that her class has been taking place without the city’s knowledge and without authority from the recreation department.
Recreation Director Bob Holub noted that Walters takes donations for the class –which appears to be the issue.
“We want the parks open to all and to allow as many users to enjoy it in many ways,” Holub said. “The intent of the city was not to preclude the group, but a for-profit venture cannot be conducted on public land.”
Holub said the city wanted to come up with a solution moving forward so that Walters could continue to offer the class with proper authorization from the recreation department.
He put her in touch with the Rocky River Parks and Recreation Foundation, a group that works in tandem with the recreation department, after Walters turned down an offer to become an independent contractor with the city.
Several emails on the issue were sent to Walters from the city attorney.
Walters said that about 10 years ago, the former city recreation director talked with her about the classes and said that as long as the students were clear that they were freely making donations rather than being charged a fee, she could continue her classes.
Walters said donations are about $5 apiece from the usual 20 students who attend, but attendance is climbing during the coronavirus pandemic and now stands at about 30.
In total, the weekly class now provides her with approximately $600 per month as an instructor.
“It’s a lot of money,” Walters remarked. She also wondered aloud, “Does the foundation want all of it?”
Walters noted that she has yet to have any conversation with the foundation about how to distribute the donations, and apparently there is no written agreement.
When Holub was asked if he was aware of how much money Walters receives as the class instructor and whether or not there is a written agreement, he forwarded an email he wrote to her and others, primarily her students who wrote to the city to complain about Walters being confronted on the issue after so many years.
“I’m not sure of the general weekly amount received or contributions made by participants to Ms. Walters in previous weeks.
“With regard to a written agreement,” he said, “it’s not something we’re drafting for the remainder of this year, but rather something we are working through the foundation on.
“As a (non-profit) 501c3, the foundation will receive those dollars at their discretion, working with Ms. Walters — really, no dealings with the city other than the approved reservation of space.”
Holub said the city is pleased with the outcome.
“Ultimately, we have worked through the situation,” he said. “Classes will continue, and we are thrilled we could accommodate, especially now. With such high stress, it is extremely valuable. But we needed to be consistent with…