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North Saanich mayor says harassment and bullying led to pickleball closure

But this narrative is ‘unsubstantiated’ according to the head of local pickleball players group
The Wain Road pickleball courts sit silent on May 9. (Mark Page/News Staff)

It came as a surprise to local pickleball players when the North Saanich council made the call to close the Wain Road courts on April 29, and a debate has now arisen over what was happening in the lead up to that decision.

The mayor elaborated on council’s rationale in an interview on Friday, May 10, but much of his narrative is disputed by the head of the local pickleball players association.

Mayor Peter Jones told Black Press Media the courts were closed primarily due to noise, but what brought the matter to a head was the harassment and bullying of nearby residents by players. He said the district just could not let it continue through the busy summer months.

“It was getting just too bad for the residents with regard to the harassment and the bullying,” Jones said. “We felt we had to do something.”

Jones said it had gotten so bad that several residents would not go to their door if someone knocked, and would not answer the phone to strange phone numbers.

But Brad Watson, president of the Saanich Peninsula Pickleball Association said these comments are “unsubstantiated,” and that Jones has “no evidence” of this harassment.

Watson says the closure is simply because the council doesn’t want to spend any money on sound mitigation at all, but would rather just shutter the courts.

Looking back at the information from all his meetings and communications about Wain Road, Watson said he can find no mention of harassment or bullying.

“It was a surprise,” Watson said of the closure and the justification, adding the pickleball association had done some door-to-door canvasing of the neighbourhood, but that was just to ask the community about their opinions on reduced hours at the courts.

Asked about what evidence and how many people are being harassed, Jones said he spoke to 23 people in the area not happy about the courts, and four or five reported harassment. None of this was physical nature, nor was it reported to police.

Jones said the harassment is now being meted out on himself and other councillors.

“Myself and other council members were also harassed, and we continue to be harassed even as of this morning,” Jones said on Friday.

The diverging narratives about pickleball player behaviour is just one of many parts of the story the two sides cannot agree on.

Jones says the pickleball association had its chance to give input on alternative sites to Wain Road.

“We’ve tried and tried and tried,” Jones said.

Watson says the only viable option they were given was Blue Heron Park, but the chosen site was going to be right next to the freeway, and would expose players to noise and exhaust fumes. The potential for using Cy Hampson Park was also discussed, but was shot down due to opposition from dog owners.

Beyone these two choices, Watson said his group was not included on any discussions.

And when it came to options for sound mitigation, Watson said the council didn’t seriously consider the proposal for acoustic fencing, which is what is used at the Carnarvon Park pickleball courts in Oak Bay.

“They didn’t want to look at anything.” Watson.

Either way, the decision to close the courts has sparked a strong reaction from the pickleball community. And the subject is not yet settled as council has still not decided whether the courts will be permanently shut to be repurposed or demolished.

“We knew the decision of council to close those courts will be highly controversial,” Jones said. “But we feel as a majority of counsel, that it had to be done. It was something we did not want to do.”

READ MORE: Peninsula pickleball players let council hear it as rackets silenced

READ MORE: North Saanich council votes to close Wain Road pickleball courts on May 7

About the Author: Mark Page

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