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PHOTOS: North Saanich pickleballers head to Oak Bay park for noise tests

Players plan to use the information to persuade North Saanich council to reverse court closure

North Saanich pickleball players are out to prove the game can be made quieter as they seek to reverse the local council’s court closure order.

A contingent of these peninsula pickleballers were down in Oak Bay midday on Wednesday (May 15) measuring the sound in and around the Carnarvon Park courts in hopes they can persuade the North Saanich council that noise mitigation is possible and that the Wain Road courts should be reopened.

“What we’re going to do is we’re going to take some readings with people playing pickleball normally, and then we’re going to take some readings afterwards using some sound mitigation techniques, such as changing the equipment or putting up barriers,” said Jordan Mikkers, a mechanical engineer who took the measurements with a calibrated microphone and computer.

The North Saanich council opted to close the Wain Road courts on April 29, citing noise complaints from neighbours. Mayor Peter Jones said the closure needed to happen immediately due to players harassing and bullying local residents opposed to the courts.

Carnarvon Park has pickleball courts much closer to homes than at Wain Road, but noise mitigation fencing is in place on the residential side.

The first measurements were taken on the park side without the special fencing, at about 50 metres from the courts. At that location the noise was only slightly higher than normal park sound. Mikkers said at this site it got up to 62 decibels, up from about 56 just with ambient park sounds.

He also set up his equipment just inside and just outside the court, as well as 50 metres away on the side of the acoustic fencing. Those results were not yet available as of Wednesday afternoon.

Mikkers said that as well as capturing total volume, he is measuring sound in the frequency range that is considered “annoying,” which is between 1,000 and 2,000 hertz. Mikkers said this is the same frequency as a garbage truck’s back-up signal, which is set in that range to get people’s attention.

Mikkers was also involved with the developing the quieter “Owl Paddle” that is being used during the tests.

Using quieter paddles cut the level of these frequencies in half, he said.

Brad Watson, president of the Saanich Peninsula Pickleball Association, said that he has been using the quiet paddles for some time now.

“Love it,” Watson said. “It doesn’t change the game, it just softens everything and it quiets everything.”

Watson also pointed out that in addition to the quiet paddles reducing the “annoying” frequencies, “acoustic fencing” can reduce overall volume in half.

Watson and Mikkers were joined at Carnarvon by over a dozen pickleball players who showed up to be the noise-generating guinea pigs.

Ann Blyth plays at Wain Road regularly, said she hope this effort would put some facts behind the players’ argument that noise can be reduced.

“We want to make sure that the decisions are made based on quantitative data rather than conjecture,” she said. “Having a test where there’s data and we can prove this is what the effects are makes a huge difference, rather than it just being hearsay.”

Watson said he hopes to take the data and create a presentation to share with councillors.

READ MORE: North Saanich mayor says harassment and bullying led to pickleball closure

About the Author: Mark Page

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