The Wellesley Recreation Commission earlier this month, after running its ideas for balancing the needs of neighbors and pickleball players by the School Committee and Natural Resources Commission, has put in place some new rules. Meanwhile, it aims for Special Fall Town Meeting to consider changes that would provide additional noise relief to neighbors of pickleball courts at Sprague Field and Perrin Park, and fair court access to pickleball and tennis players (tennis still accounts for two-thirds of court reservations).
The Recreation Department has updated its website with the latest on tennis and pickleball memberships and court reservations.
Rec Commissioner Ansley Martin acknowledged that NRC members he met with the night before Rec’s July 7 meeting (see Wellesley Media recording) had some widely varying views on the subject. One member thought all pickleball should be stopped at Sprague and Perrin until a solution is agreed upon, while another argued that meeting all pickleball demand is not necessary right now.
“They were all in agreement by Special Town Meeting in October that hopefully we’ve done enough vetting on what I would call a more semi-permanent solution until the ultimate goal that we have dedicated pickleball somewhere in Wellesley,” he said.
In the meantime, there could be options such as leasing space from commercial property owners. There was talk of exploring options at Wellesley Office Park, where the Nines is located, as well as learning from those involved with Fenway Park’s temporary pickleball courts. The Morses Pond parking lot is another location that has been discussed.
While people like to play pickleball outdoors when the weather is nice, indoor options are also on the table, though there are issues there as well (school buildings are being deep cleaned during summer, for example). The Recreation Department has been in touch with the Boston Sports Institute at 900 Worcester St. about possible indoor court use come fall and winter.
Outdoor court plans
Rec got the NRC’s blessing for reduced pickleball hours of 9am-7pm, and eliminating 3 days of play per week at both Perrin (no play on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday) and Sprague (no play on Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, with nets removed on off days). “People will be unhappy that we have closed these (Sprague) courts on Sunday, but I’m sorry, until we get a more permanent location away from residents we need to spread the usage out,” said Recreation Commission Chair Paul Cramer.
Rec also got the go-ahead from the NRC for putting temporary lines for two pickleball courts on one Hunnewell tennis court until winter, though backed off an initial plan to mark off pickleball lines on the Hunnewell basketball courts (but said there would be room for pickleball on the adjacent parking lot). Rec voted to put down temporary lines at Schofield to increase the number of pickleball courts there to three (meanwhile, the NRC plans to reach out to neighbors to get feedback). Players will also be encouraged to use quieter balls when playing pickleball near homes.
The town will back its plans with technology, arranging so that the PlayLocal app used to schedule court time will assign people initially to courts other than Perrin and Sprague. That may prove inconvenient for those who live near those courts (not to mention butt up against the town’s efforts to reduce traffic), but it should give neighbors some relief.
New signs will be going up soon at the town’s pickleball courts.
Rec will also look to hire a park ranger/court monitor to help enforce pickleball and tennis scheduling rules as well as other playing field permits. This person/people would also be able to help the town collect additional data on actual playing demand. The town could also look to get player feedback through the PlayLocal app.
The Rec Commission and Department are responsible for offering recreational opportunities in Wellesley, but other entities such as the NRC and School Committee actually oversee much of the property where such activities take place.
Pickleball talk will continue in Wellesley this week, as the Natural Resources Commission has “Continue discussion on pickleball” on its Wednesday, July 19 (7pm) meeting agenda.
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