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Jacksonville squashes Sunday pickleball

Noise complaints lead to Sunday pickleball ban at city park

Pickleball play at Pheasant Meadows Park in Jacksonville will continue with its current dawn to dusk hours, except for Sundays when it won’t be allowed at all in response to complaints by neighbors about noise and other issues. Play had been allowed every day.

City Council recently voted 6-1 to establish the new limits, and in a separate action voted to seek funds from the state’s Department of Parks and Recreation to help create more pickleball courts elsewhere in town.

“(Sunday) would be a time for people who live there if they want to have a barbecue, if they want to have a family gathering, they could do that and it would be relatively quiet,” said Councilor Mike McLain, liaison to the city Parks and Visitor Services Committee. “Having been through there lots of times when pickleball is being played, it is noisy.”

“I think six days out of seven is a good compromise,” said Mayor Donna Bowen.

Among concerns raised by neighbors were noise from the plastic balls hit by paddles, cars parking illegally, laughter and shouting by players, and dogs tied to fences. Play began as early as 7:30 a.m. and sometimes was still conducted at 9 p.m., Beverly Way resident Linda Graham wrote in a July 2021 email to the city

Neighbors had proposed allowing setup of just two pickleball courts, posting pickleball-only and tennis-only times and potentially adding acoustic panels to reduce noise levels.

The single tennis court located at Beverly Way and East D Street in the park can accommodate four pickleball courts with 16 players, who bring their own nets. The court is surrounded by open land on three sides but is within 100 feet of properties on the fourth side.

McClain chaired a group that included Pheasant Meadows neighbors and pickleball players who looked for solutions to the issues beginning in August of last year. The Parks and Visitor Services Committee recommended Nov. 9 that pickleball be limited from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days per week. City Council held a study session on the topic Feb. 15.

At the March meeting, McClain moved to limit pickleball from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and ban it on Sundays to get discussion rolling. After deliberation, the council unanimously voted down the motion and approved the one offered by Councilor Andrea Thompson that eliminated Sunday play.

“We don’t really want to police those courts and pull an officer away from a lot more important duty. We want to keep it is as simple and straightforward as we can,” said Bowen, who urged retaining the park hours of dawn to dusk rather than setting specified times.

Support was voiced for keeping plenty of access by five pickleball proponents at the council meeting. Several players noted the park was created to encourage activity and that noise was a natural outcome. Jacksonville resident David Doi says he works full time and that weekends and evenings are the only times he can play.

“I strongly urge you not to limit the number of courts at Pheasant Meadows. Four courts are only used for a couple of hours each day,” said Sue Meyer. “You want a lot of partners to mix up with to improve your skills. Friendships are a big part of what has developed at this court.”

No one from the neighborhood showed up to testify.

Pickleball supporters and neighbors both said participation numbers grew rapidly during the COVID pandemic. Players stopped bringing dogs to games and also asked participants to park legally to address concerns, proponents said. They also said that pickleball play usually lasts just two to three hours, with sessions generally avoiding hotter hours during the summer months.

City officials are looking into the establishing more pickleball courts near the C Street city parking lot. The area is zoned Special Protection, which permits outdoor recreation activities. The site would be close to Jacksonville’s Dog Park and Skate Park, which are located near the western end of D Street.

A resolution to apply for a state park grant to develop the courts was passed by the council. The resolution says the city has local matching funds for a grant and will provide money for operations and maintenance.

Funds for the match could come from the city’s system development charges designed to fund parks, said City Administrator Jeff Alvis. He said fundraising for the facility would also be conducted.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.