Over the coming weeks and months many Peninsula communities will face increasing pressure to consider new or expanded pickleball facilities. While these decisions appear to be seemingly innocuous at first glance (outdoor sports for seniors, what could go wrong), a cursory review of experiences uncovers a very specific set of pickleball problems that most small, elected governments appear to be unable or unwilling to deal with.
Already, across the United States, and particularly in the state of California, pickleball has expanded at an incredible rate. This unprecedented growth, however, hasn’t come without controversy. From Berkeley to Punta Gorda, noise and player behaviour complaints have dominated media and local government public consultations. It’s clear from reporting on the issues that in their zest to support this emerging activity, elected officials were reticent to perform the necessary due diligence to understand its impacts and now appear to be equally reticent to do anything about it.
In our own community, the District of North Saanich, at immense cost to local taxpayers, rushed to implement a new pickleball court on Birch Road and despite claims to the contrary, did not appear to understand or appreciate how this new facility would impact residents. Since its implementation, noise and player behaviour complaints to bylaw enforcement and the RCMP have skyrocketed, and despite concerns raised, no concrete action to resolve complaints has been taken. North Saanich council recently pushed the issue off for further study.
Suggesting that noise and player behaviour complaints at a pickleball court requires further ‘study’ before action can be taken is no less ludicrous than suggesting that a house fire should be ‘reviewed’ before firefighters can extinguish the blaze. All anyone needs to do is stand 100 metres from the court on any given day and listen to what residents tolerate from sunup to sundown each and every day. The current circumstances are wholly unacceptable for residents and players alike, and are a blight on the character of our community.
There is a place for recreation in any community and that includes pickleball. With adequate study, including consideration for acoustical separation, parking and player behavioural regulation and oversight, pickleball can thrive without controversy. It should not, however, in any circumstance, come at the expense of residents or taxpayers.