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New Squamish pickleball courts creating a racket

ParkHouse residents complain about noise from new courts.

Some residents at the ParkHouse residential complex downtown are complaining that newly-installed pickleball courts are causing a racket.

They are saying that, unlike tennis, the new sport causes far more noise and is affecting their quality of life.

Pickleball is essentially a pared-down version of tennis, which uses a smaller court and is played with a plastic ball and a hard paddle made of wood or composite material. It's been gaining popularity, as it's a more accessible, seniors-friendly game that isn't as harsh on the body.  

However, with many people now working at home, what residents describe as a constant pinging sound is a constant distraction.

 "I think it was a really...well-intended project with unintended consequences," said Cristina Bardorf, a resident at Park House.  

"And I really want to stress that this is not crabby old ladies talking about the noise. This is a really unique sound. We have the trains every night here — we're comfortable with sound in this building. This is on a whole other level of ping-pong at such high amplitudes, so often, so frequent and even with windows closed and sealed there's no way to drown out the sound."

Bardorf said it was curious the District didn't take noise into account, given that noise complaints have been well-documented in other communities, such as Port Moody, which took down a pickleball court amid complaints.  

She added she was also particularly disappointed that the District did not use guidelines espoused by pickleball associations to mitigate the sound.

 Bardorf pointed to the recommendations from the Vancouver Pickleball Association that discourage building pickleball courts within 30 metres of the closest residence.  

According to another ParkHouse resident, the courts are far closer than that.

"I'm like 10 [metres] maybe, from the court," said Natalia Fleet.  

"Everybody's agitated. Everybody's animals are upset. The dogs bark at the players, the cats get all upset because of the constant wacking noise. It's like fireworks to the cats."

Fleet said the noise would hurt owners' prospects of either renting or selling their units.  

The Vancouver Pickleball Association notes that, initially, complaints about noise centre around the constant tick of the ball hitting the paddle.

"The real noise problem is not the sound of the pickleball against the paddle, but the frequency of that sound magnified by the social nature of the game," reads a post to the organization's website.  

"A single tennis court can be converted into as many as four pickleball courts. Unlike tennis, almost all recreational pickleball is played in doubles. Thus, two tennis players playing at too great a distance to carry on a conversation are replaced by 16 pickleball players within tight proximity generally engaging in a lively and exuberant conversation often marked by laughter."

Fleet, along with Bardorf said that the best solution would be to move the pickleball courts to an area where they aren't so close to a residential zone. 

The courts have been up since late summer, and the noise then was already an issue.

Both Bardorf and Fleet said they've been unsatisfied with how the District responded to their concerns.

Pickleball Squamish declined to comment, instead referring The Chief to the municipality.  

In turn, the District issued a written statement to The Chief regarding the matter.

"Pickleball had been played on the Eaglewind Courts for more than five years prior to the recent court conversion, during which time there were no sound-related complaints," reads the statement.

"As the sport has grown in popularity amongst Squamish residents of all ages and participation numbers were already strong, a permanent place to play was created. The decision was made in the context of COVID-19 that placed emphasis on creating opportunities for safe ways to stay active outdoors. Pickleball is also an allowable recreational use in this location within the District's Park Use Bylaw."

The statement also added staff are taking recent concerns expressed by surrounding neighbours into consideration, and will be reinforcing community guidelines that support reasonable court use and create a harmonious environment for players and surrounding neighbours alike.

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