In what they hope will prove a net gain and not court further trouble with neighboring residents, the Vienna Town Council voted 5-2 to restrict times when pickleball may be played at Glyndon Park.
Neighbors lately had been making a racket about the tens of thousands of hard pinging sounds made during pickleball games every day.
The new schedule, which will take effect March 1, allows only pickleball to be played on Glyndon Park’s courts from March through November on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. From December through February, pickleball will be allowed from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
Year-round, during all other times of the park’s operating hours, the courts would be used for tennis only.
In an effort to moderate demand for the courts, town staff will extend as far as possible the reservation system for play.
The Parks and Recreation Department will have the option of modifying that schedule if there are occasional camps or classes at the park. Department officials also later this spring will report back to the Council on the implementation of Glyndon Park’s new pickleball schedule, as well as the overall pickleball situation in town.
“I really do think this is an interim measure that should be reviewed,” said Council member Charles Anderson, who put forward the motion. Mayor Linda Colbert and Council member Ed Somers voted against the measure.
Anderson’s motion borrowed an element from an earlier failed motion by Somers, which encourages pickleball players at the park – via signage and a Web link with a QR code – to use quieter paddles. The Parks and Recreation Department will compile a suggested list of manufacturers of such paddles.
The motion also requires Parks and Recreation Director Leslie Herman to come back to the Council with a long-term plan for management of Glyndon Park’s courts.
“What we really need to do is roll up our sleeves and take a look at capacity,” Anderson said. “This is a rapidly growing game. It’s very popular, but it also has a noise issue.”
According to surveys the town conducted of residents near the park and pickleball players, which provided a narrow range of potential scheduling options, respondents preferred the choice allowing the sport to be played on Mondays and Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. That proposal also called for evening hours to be lessened from December through February, when lights are not available at the park.
Some Council members favored sticking with that approach, while others hoped to add another full or partial day of pickleball play. All agreed it was beneficial for people to be involved in outdoor recreation.
“It’s a great social sport,” Council member Steve Potter said of pickleball. “It gives my age group something to do and make friends, when many people don’t get out and don’t have the opportunity to be able to socialize and do something that is actually healthy for them.”
Mayor Colbert, a tennis and pickleball player, said the town also should cater to the needs of tennis aficionados, who already have lost playing time at the park.
Controversies over pickleball are happening all over the country, and on occasion have led to court closures, Potter said. But Vienna’s residents so far openly have expressed their views and sought an acceptable solution to the noise issue, he said.
Quieter paddles are a good first step, Potter said. Pickleballs that make less noise also are available, but they “play a lot differently,” he said.
Council members seemed supportive of looking at other potential pickleball locations in town. Council member Nisha Patel suggested Southside Park might be a good spot, as the roar from adjacent Interstate 66 would drown out pickleball noises.
Given some Vienna residents’ adamant resistance against having sidewalks installed on their streets, however, implementing a noisy sport near their homes likely would be a tough sell.