The number of pickleball players in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area grows each year, yet there are no designated public courts available in the region.
Players say the handful of makeshift courts are not enough to accommodate the avid fans of the popular racquet sport. The two places pickleball players frequent are the makeshift facilities at the tennis courts and lacrosse box at the Parksville Community Park.
There has been a strong desire from the Oceanside Pickleball Club and the Parksville Oceanside Pickleball Society to have designated pickleball courts built in Parksville. They have gone through two different city councils in the last six years, resulting in a number proposals that include allocating land at Springwood Park to build 12 courts.
There was also a proposal to council on Feb. 3, 2021 to convert the park’s existing tennis courts into eight pickleball courts and refurbish the lacrosse box to allow for nine setup/takedown pickleball courts. A motion was also brought forward by Coun. Doug O’Brien last March 21 to build 16 new courts that can accommodate up to 64 players, and would run adjacent to the green area and skateboard park in the parking lot behind the curling club.
But council in the end declined to fully invest money on new designated pickleball courts at Springwood Park due to the estimated cost and that it would also go against the city’s policy of providing a multi-use sports facility. Council opted to have one of the tennis courts at the Parksville Community Park reconfigured to allow four designated pickleball courts with a fence to separate it from the tennis courts but stakeholders feel it will not be sufficient.
Mayor Ed Mayne calls the current compromise on the multi-use tennis/pickleball courts fair.
The Oceanside Pickleball Stakeholders, representing the pickleball community in District 69, sent a letter to Parksville council to express their disappointment.
Ernie Pallott, Keith Hosking, John Kuzbik, Garry Kaita, Brian Alexander, Tom Staite and Peter Drummond, in a signed letter, indicated the “pickleball community disagrees” with Mayne’s comment.
The group said council has failed to involve the pickleball community in decision-making process which they indicated fell short of collaboration, lacked consistency and transparency.
“Following meetings with the mayor, staff, or both, we sat in shocked surprise that our voice was not presented to council and new decision-making criteria was introduced for council to make decisions,” the stakeholders stated. “Many decisions were not-evidence based and contradictory arguments were made to justify final decisions.”
Pallott said he also hand-delivered a letter to the city asking council to collaborate with them but only O’Brien responded.
“There’s a lot of frustrations,” said Pallott. “It’s been going on for six years. The pickleball community has already doubled in size.”
Pallot, who also represents the Oceanside Pickleball Club, said they had to cap their membership at 270 and has a waiting list for those wanting to join. They’ve been monitoring the number of people playing pickleball in the region.
“We were restricted by COVID-19 in the last couple of years and even last year when we were limited to only 48 players on the court at one time, we had 7,000 playing opportunities and we had a 96 per cent attendance record. The Regional District of Nanaimo, they had somewhere in the 94 per cent participation and usage.”
The city, the stakeholders stated, has spent two years and more than $100,000 on site studies and surface core sampling. They also have spent countless hours in meetings.
“The final outcome falls well short of how all of this started almost six years ago, with a plan for 12 dedicated pickleball courts,” they said.
Pallot also disputed the perception pickleball caters only to older people and clubs.
“If there are no pickleball courts, how can young people go out and play?” Pallot asked. “How can a family, a mom and dad take their kids out and try out pickleball? You can buy beginner paddles and a ball for less than $50. What kind of recreation can you play for $50 for a family? It’s one of the cheapest sports going.”
Mayne said Parksville is already providing courts, and questioned why only the city is addressing the issue. He pointed out that there will be four designated pickleball courts, four shared courts with tennis, and six at the lacrosse box that will be resurfaced. He also pointed out there are indoor courts at Oceanside Place.
“Why are we the only one providing pickleball court for the whole Oceanside,” said Mayne. “What is the Town of Qualicum Beach doing? They should approach the school board as well because they have a tennis court in one of their schools.”