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District of Squamish to research pickleball noise policy

There may be hope for people fed up with pickleball noise.

Following a steady stream of complaints from nearby residents, the District of Squamish is researching where and how pickleball courts should be built.

Earlier in 2021, pickleball courts were installed in Eaglewind. The construction of the courts replaced tennis courts that had previously been in the area.

However, residents of the nearby ParkHouse complex began to notice a substantial difference in noise.

Pickleball is played with wood or composite paddles, and the constant pinging sound of the plastic ball on the paddle proved to be a nuisance.

Furthermore, pickleball courts are smaller than tennis courts, meaning that there are up to four pickleball courts for every tennis court.

Along with a more prominent noise, this means there are more players in the location at any given time, generating all the usual sounds associated with people in a small crowd.

On Dec. 14, council directed staff to start researching where pickleball courts should be located.

"I'd like to make a motion that staff develop some criteria around siting of pickleball courts as far as best practices go," said Coun. Armand Hurford.

He said he'd like to compare those findings with the Brennan Park Fields and Lands Master Plan and also with the current site of the pickleball courts at Eaglewind.

This could inform any potential future plans, he said.

Hurford's motion passed 5-2, with Mayor Karen Elliott and Coun. Chris Pettingill voting against it.

Hurford made the motion shortly after council endorsed the new Brennan Park Fields and Lands Master Plan.

"I think this is an important piece, as we've had concerns raised by the community around the current location of the courts," he said.

The findings could help inform next year's budget process, Hurford said.

Coun. John French supported the motion.

"I find this situation with pickleball to be a classic, 'You don't know what you don't know,'" said French. 

"And what we didn't know has really created some very uncomfortable living conditions for a number of people in our community, and I'd like to see the District of Squamish move as quickly as we possibly can on this to alleviate the difficult living situations [for] the people in ParkHouse."

Coun. Jenna Stoner said she was hesitant on the matter, as it was council that directed staff to put in the courts where they are currently located, as per the last budget.

"We are now at a point where we are backtracking on that, because staff didn't have the time to do their due diligence," Stoner said.

However, she agreed the work needed to be done, so she said she'd hesitantly support the motion.

Coun. Chris Pettingill said he didn't support the matter.

He also added he'd like a noise policy that was broader in general, not one aimed at one particular sport in one specific place.

"I'm just worried [about] treating this as ad hoc," Pettingill said.

Elliott said it should've been referred to a separate committee of the whole discussion.

District staff previously said that removing the pickleball courts would cost about as much as installing them.

In the 2021 budget, $50,000 was set aside for converting the tennis courts at Eaglewind into pickleball courts.