Park officials trying to mediate a dispute between Oak Park’s tennis and pickleball players have figured out a way to serve the needs of both communities.
The Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District announced in February it would convert two tennis courts at Deerhill Park into pickleball-only courts, but a vocal reaction from the tennis community led the district to rethink its decision. Pickleball will be allowed on the courts for only part of the week.
Due to the growing popularity of pickleball, the Deerhill courts were painted for use by both sports in 2016.
The Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District’s board of directors, which oversees park facilities in Oak Park, decided at its May 2 meeting that the Deerhill courts will be reserved for pickleball on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 5 and 10 p.m. If the courts are open during those hours tennis players are welcome to use them, but pickleball has the priority.
Directors also passed a motion that pickleball tournaments could no longer be held on those courts. Tournaments will be played elsewhere and will require a district permit. Many tennis players and residents near the parks said the tournaments were loud and disruptive.
Dan Paranick, park district manager, said the growing popularity of pickleball has raised similar issues in other parts of the district, and the staff wanted to find a resolution that pleased players of both sports.
“Pickleball is a relatively new demand for us, and meeting that demand is what’s challenging for us. At the same time, we also have tennis. Those two sports just happen to play on the same courts,” Paranick said.
“We’ve had this discussion in other parts of the district, probably four or five months ago, and it took about six months to resolve. We provided shared-use courts with specific times (for each sport). We’d all love new pickleball courts, but there’s financial constraints,” he said.
The board’s decision in February to reserve the Deerhill courts for pickleball only was protested by members of Oak Park’s tennis-playing community, who said they were unaware of the public meeting that decided the fate of the courts and did not have the opportunity to voice their opinion on the matter.
Before the board’s decision, the Deerhill Park facilities had been shared by both communities. The tennis courts are painted for both tennis and pickleball, and mobile nets were on site for pickleball players to use. The sport requires a smaller space than tennis—the two Deerhill Park tennis courts can be used as four pickleball courts.
After the outcry, the board announced a second meeting would be held in order to give everyone a chance to be heard. In anticipation of last week’s meeting, district staff also conducted a three-week study of the court usage at all the Oak Park parks. There are two other parks in the community with tennis courts: Indian Springs Park and Mae Boyar, which have two tennis courts each.
The study found that more pickleball is played at Deerhill than tennis. The results also showed that more than half the time the tennis courts at Mae Boyar and Indian Springs parks were not being used.
Last week’s meeting was attended by more than 150 residents, and representatives of both sports turned out in equal numbers. Dozens of people took the opportunity to ask that the courts remain available for both sports to use.
Others questioned why the district couldn’t simply construct new courts exclusively for pickleball players. Paranick said if the district only relied on money generated by Oak Park, new courts would be unfeasible.
“We generate $2.3 million in tax revenue out of Oak Park, and we spend $2.5 million, so the Oak Park area of the district is in a deficit position, meaning we spend more than the taxes generate,” Paranick said. “(RSRPD) does not charge Oak Park for the entire district-wide overhead. If we were to do that, you’d have about a $450,000 expenditure over revenues.”
If the district pulled on all of its financial resources, there is money for new courts, but those are earmarked for other projects that have priority. Paranick said there would need to be a discussion about moving new pickleball courts to the top of that list.
By the end of the meeting, everyone seemed satisfied with the decision to reserve Tuesday and Thursday nights for pickleball, though if the courts are unoccupied, tennis players are welcome to use the space.
Miguel Enciso, who teaches the Saturday morning pickleball classes offered by the park district, said the pickleball community isn’t aiming to take the space away from tennis players.
“We’re happy that they weren’t all dedicated to pickleball and with that first step of dedicating times. So often we’ll go there (to play), a group of eight or 10 or 12 people are waiting for one court to clear out, and there’s two people on it,” Enciso said. “Tuesday and Thursday are our stronger times. To get those was a real positive step. We want to be respectful of the tennis community. It’s always about compromise.”
Content retrieved from: https://www.theacorn.com/articles/accord-reached-in-oak-park-tennis-pickleball-dispute/.