Wellesley Recreation Commission revisits pickleball: It’s data time

The Wellesley Recreation Commission continues to explore options for satisfying both pickleball players and neighbors, some of whom have complained about the noisiness of the popular paddle sport. No changes to the current locations or playing times have taken place, but the Commission did have a couple of updates to share with the public.

The discussion starts about 63 minutes into the meeting (Wellesley Media recording).

Recreation Department Director Matt Chin said Rec met recently with School Committee and Natural Resources Commission reps, as those latter two organizations oversee the properties where pickleball is played outside in town (Sprague Fields, Schofield, Perrin Park).

“One of the big things that came out of it was just getting basic data about who thinks what about these courts being used,” Chin said, adding there are plans to survey abutters. (There have been instances of confrontations between players and neighbors that Rec’s hoping to put a stop to.)

There’s also a move afoot to get an outfit to measure the sound—decibel levels and ambient sound readings—at the locations. This will probably cost Rec about $7K and plans are to get the measurements going over the next few weeks. Having data should enable the Recreation Commission to make recommendations to the town land overseers.

Rec reps also recently made a field trip to Burlington to get a better feel for how the sound-reducing fencing they’re using works, and while that town seems satisfied with the mitigation method, Wellesley’s not so sure it will be effective here, especially for residents who live above court levels.

The town may wind up making short-term changes (say moving the Sprague pickleball lines to courts on that property further from the residences and reducing hours) with an eye toward making long-term changes, such as possibly putting courts at the Morses Pond parking lot area. Pickleball has not been located at the Hunnewell tennis courts on Rte. 16 mainly because the Wellesley Public Schools athletic program has asked Rec not to allow it due to conflicts with school sports. There was some talk about the possibility of encouraging players to use equipment designed to be quieter, but monitoring that would be a nightmare.

The meeting included a handful of citizen speakers, all of whom encouraged the Commission to appreciate the community that has arisen around pickleball in town, introducing people to new sets of friends across age groups on the court and that have carried over off the court. While strongly urging Rec to allow for pickleball outdoors, they also said they hope to find solutions that neighbors will be OK with. As several said, the sport is only becoming more popular, meaning that demand for more courts is coming.

Related: Natick pickleball meeting draws a crowd—and lots of ideas