Courtenay has discontinued a pilot project allowing pickleball players to mark four courts for their sport on a tennis court at Lewis Park using painter’s tape.
The “altercations” between players of the two racquet sports were reaching the point where “some users (were) feeling unsafe”, reported recreation manager Dave Snider to city council Tuesday night.
Although the painter’s tape lines could be removed, that was increasing the cost of the pilot “and has subjected tennis players to criticism from pickleball players”.
“This has included pickleball players taking photos of the tennis players removing the lines and confronting them as vandals,” Snider wrote.
The pilot painter’s tape project started this past spring, in the hope that pickleball courts would be compatible with the adjacent tennis play.
“Over the subsequent months, the city received a high volume of complaints about the pilot project. There have also been negative verbal exchanges between groups on site,” Snider said.
The city received a petition on July 20 from tennis players and their supporters, along with a number of emails outlining their concerns.
The pickleball players also sent numerous emails asking for pickleball lines to be painted on the tennis courts.
The issue came to a head July 17 when the mayor invited both parties to speak as delegations to council.
“Both groups attended in numbers that were far beyond the capacity of Council chambers,” Snider wrote.
City council referred the issue back to staff. After a consultation process on the city’s recreation master plan is completed sometime this fall, staff will give a report back to council.
Snider noted in his report that new services are generally introduced after council approval. He wrote that tennis is an existing service at Lewis Park while pickleball is an introduced activity through the pilot project.
“Although the intent of the pilot was positive, staff do not believe that the continuation of this pilot will yield any different results based on the response to date, and may result in a further escalation of conflict between pickleball and tennis players,” wrote Snider.
He said both groups should be encouraged to participate in the upcoming parks and recreation master plan consultation sessions.
In the meantime, pickleball players are being allowed the continued use of the tennis practice court until the start of September.
Snider said city staff will continue to work with regional and municipal partners to watch for other locations for both temporary and permanent pickleball use.
“It’s a bit of a pickle,” quipped city CAO Dave Allen.