Councils are to be legally banned from charging runners who take part in regular Saturday morning “Parkruns” after one event was abandoned when organisers were forced to pay a “wear and tear” fee.
A Government consultation is also examining whether councils will be allowed to charge professional dog walkers and personal trainers to use public parks.
There are 450 five kilometre parkruns in the UK. They all take place on Saturday, starting at 9am in England and Wales and 9.30am in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Each race can attract hundreds of joggers, who complete the course and are then emailed a note of their time and position.
Since 2004, 1.2million different people have taken part. They are open to everyone from the age of 4 upwards and are organised entirely by volunteers.
There are also 155 junior parkruns for 4-14 year-olds on Sunday mornings which have so far seen 113,000 juniors have taken part.
There was an outcry in April last year from runners and Olympic athletes such as Paula Radcliffe and Dame Kelly Holmes when Stoke Gifford Parish Council proposed a charge on organisers of a parkrun in Little Stoke Park.
Councillors there voted in favour of charges for "wear and tear", on the grounds that it was unfair to expect non-running residents to pay for the park's upkeep.
Ministers said they were passing the law because it was “important that action be taken to prevent other local authorities following Stoke Gifford Parish Council’s example.”
The consultation document – published without fanfare on Thursday and open until July 5 - makes clear that "the use of public parks by the public for everyday use is, and should remain, free.
"It is for that reason that we are proposing to legislate to ensure that local authorities cannot charge parkrun or junior parkrun for the use of public parks."
It said: “The Department for Communities and Local Government is consulting on proposals to legislate to put it beyond doubt that local authorities, including parish councils, cannot charge parkrun or junior parkrun for the use of public parks.”
It added: “Local authorities quite legitimately charge for a variety of different events and specific activities that take place in local parks.
“The government considers that it is appropriate for the public to pay a reasonable sum for the exclusive use of a facility such as a tennis court or for the shared use of a facility such as a golf course.
“It is also considered appropriate for charges to be made for special events such as outdoor concerts or other ticketed events that generate a profit for the local authority or the event organiser.
“However, the government does not consider it appropriate for a local authority to charge a volunteer community seeking to provide a free weekly event for the use of a public park, overturning our long standing convention of free access to parks for their everyday use.”
The consultation also asked whether councils should be allowed to charge “professional dog walkers, personal trainers and other individuals and organisations that use public parks in relation to business” that does not involve closing large parts of the space.
Tom Williams, Parkrun’s chief operating officer, said: “We are really pleased to see the government's passion for protecting public areas of open space so that future generations are able to enjoy them as we do, and it is critical that all park users work together in order to ensure their sustainability.
“At Parkrun we are committed to doing whatever we can to support local authorities across all of our event locations and there are many creative ways to do this.”