It seems the town has gotten in a bit of a pickle, over where residents interested in playing pickle ball are able to play. Town officials have said that the newly-renovated tennis courts on Rte. 7 are to be used for tennis only, and pickle ball lines will not be painted onto the new courts–leaving some pickle ball players sour about not being able to play there.
But Wednesday, things turned even more contentious after four pickle ball players marked up the recently renovated tennis courts, using chalk to draw lines for a pickle ball court on top of one of the new tennis courts. Several tennis players called in complaints and public posts appeared on Facebook. By late afternoon, first selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice issued a public notice in a statement that she posted on Facebook, sent to media and published on the town’s Parks and Recreation website, on behalf of herself and Parks and Recreation Commission chairman Peter Connolly:
“At the November 20th Board of Selectmen meeting the Parks and Recreation Commission recommended and the Board of Selectmen affirmed that the Wilton High School tennis courts are to be used exclusively for tennis. No other sport is to be played on the courts. No lines of any kind, temporary or otherwise, are to be marked on the courts by a member of the public. Due to potential damage to the courts, no member of the public should shovel the courts. Any markings or damage will be reported to the police for investigation.
“Taxpayers have made a significant investment in the tennis court. On their behalf, we appreciate your cooperation in safeguarding that investment. The courts are open for play now and will be completed in the spring. Thank you.”
Vanderslice confirmed to GOOD Morning Wilton that four people did go to the court to play pickle ball on Wednesday, and using chalk, they drew pickle ball court lines onto the tennis courts.
“We thought we were clear when we said that the Wilton High School courts could not be used for pickle ball, and that we would not paint the lines onto the tennis court. We thought we were clear that the courts were not to be used for pickle ball and that pickle ball lines should not be put on the tennis courts. But since that was not clear to some of the residents, we issued the statement that we issued,” Vanderslice says.
She reiterated that the courts are restricted for tennis, and only tennis.
“You can’t ride a bike on them. You can’t skateboard on them. You’re there to play tennis. The lines were painted under the supervision of the Parks and Rec Commission, they are painted on the courts for tennis and those are the only lines that should be on the court. No one can go with chalk and draw hopscotch. You can’t set up dodgeball lines. It’s for tennis players,” she says.
While the illicit lines were drawn with chalk and are not permanent, they’re still disruptive, say the tennis players who were upset that the courts had been marked up. One resident (who wished to remain unnamed) saw the lines and was upset by what they termed an “arrogant” act. “They left the courts a complete mess without any regards to the next possible player. It may not rain for days and that isn’t going anywhere.”
Where pickle ball players can play in Wilton was a question discussed at the Nov. 20 Board of Selectmen meeting. Public comment kicked off the discussion as the audience was packed with people on both sides–those hoping the town would allow pickle ball lines to be painted on at least one of the new courts, and those who say such lines are distracting to tennis players and would damage the high school’s ability to host tennis matches.
Connolly and Parks and Rec director Steve Pierce made the case for keeping the tennis courts as a single use facility. They explained that pickle ball lines had been added to the indoor gym at Comstock Community Center and on two tennis courts at Middlebrook. Pickle ball players aren’t able to use the Middlebrook courts, however, when school is in session.
With pickle ball increasing in popularity town officials say they do want to accommodate fans of the sport, but the Board of Selectmen members voted at their meeting to keep the tennis courts single use. Instead, they advised the Parks and Recreation Commission to search for a suitable location on town property and determine if fundraising efforts could raise the estimated $75-90,000 it would cost to build a pickle ball court. In the meantime, they also voted to add pickle ball lines to the upper level parking area at Middlebrook, if school superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith and the Board of Education approved.
Editor’s note: the story has been edited to reflect that four people were involved, as witnesses report that the group included both women and a man, rather than women only.