Closing courts and limiting outdoor recreation for residents simply wasn’t an option for Oak Bay council as it talked pickleball and noise Monday night.
Noise complaints surrounding evening pickleball in the Carnarvon Park neighbourhood spurred the conversation as council sat as committee of the whole April 19 and opening options appeared more palatable than closing courts.
Pickleball officially bounced into Carnarvon Park in 2014 by altering the existing tennis nets and line painting.
At the time, the tennis courts were not well used and pickleball was a growing sport. There was no public consultation ahead of the 2016 conversion of one tennis courts into four pickleball courts.
Noise has been an issue since.
As an attempt to reduce conflict, over the last two seasons players were told to use foam balls only after 4 p.m. However, the majority of pickleball players continue to use the solid, plastic wiffle balls usually used for the sport.
The foam balls change the game considerably, Steve Meikle, manager of recreation and culture, said, presenting a preliminary report to the committee. The location of the tennis courts were not planned with the noise implications of pickleball in mind, he noted.
Over the last year, its popularity has grown and playing outdoors continued throughout the winter because of pandemic concerns. That appeared to increase tensions between players and neighbours of the courts as noise impacts didn’t wane.
Now the ‘thwack’ of paddle versus ball is overwhelming residents seeking to enjoy their personal outdoor spaces.
“It’s the penetrating ‘thwack’ you can hear with all the windows in your house closed. It’s mildly annoying inside the house and you don’t want to be outside in your yard if they’re playing a lot of pickleball,” lifelong resident Doug Lee said.
A proposal brought forward by several neighbours recommended locking and closing the courts at 6 p.m.
Longtime Oak Bay resident David Leach called it absurd to restrict access to outdoor recreation in a pandemic when people are suffering physical and mental health concerns. Locking courts during the evening would also shut out tennis players, in particular those who work during the day.
Council seemed to agree closing courts wasn’t an option, hoping instead to balance those seeking exercise and camaraderie with those looking to enjoy the peace of their back deck.
Instead staff will come back to council with a report outlining options and costs associated with temporarily relocating courts to the lacrosse box in the park. That area is identified as near the future location of the pickleball courts in the 2019 Carnarvon Park Master Plan. The report will include information on potential for relocating courts to Henderson Recreation Centre, as well as other options to mitigate noise in Carnarvon Park beyond closure.
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