South Whidbey pickleballers seek a permanent place to play

South Whidbey residents are rallying for a permanent place to play pickleball, one of the nation’s fastest growing sports.

During a South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District Board meeting on Sept. 16, Executive Director Doug Coutts brought a letter written by a member of Whidbey Island Pickleball, an unincorporated club, to the attention of the board of commissioners.

The letter calls for four permanent pickleball courts to be built and contains 90 signatures from community members in support of the proposed project.

The picklers currently play on a section of the parking lot at the South Whidbey Sports Complex, referred to as temporary pickleball courts. In the past, they have played inside the gym at the South Whidbey Community Center but it’s not something they do right now.

The three temporary courts in the parking lot are used just about every day, said Barry Haworth, who wrote the letter to the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation director and commissioners.

However, there can be water runoff on the courts and storm debris, and pickleballs are prone to whizzing under parked vehicles nearby.

“They’re not the highest quality,” Coutts said of the parking lot courts. “What they’re looking for is a more permanent solution.”

The current courts also lack permanent netting, a non-skid surface, protective fencing, seating and storage for equipment.

Haworth said the sport is a social activity that appeals to all ages, but especially older adults.

“Our club skews towards the older end,” he said. “There’s very little active recreation for people above 50 on the island. This gives a great outlet for that.”

All a player needs to participate is a paddle, which costs around $50 or $60.

“It’s a very inexpensive sport for people to participate in,” Haworth said.

Coutts said the new courts are on the list of capital projects for the parks and recreation district, but when they will be completed and when funds will be available is unclear.

The cost will depend on location, netting and fencing. Haworth pointed to the courts in Sequim as a model, which costed nearly $250,000.

Based on the board of commissioners’ ranking, the pickleball courts rank 14th on a list of 23 items.

Coutts said infrastructure maintenance, such as paving and improving existing internal structures like picnic shelters, are ranked as higher priorities.

“It is a priority, it’s just a question of what our capital dollars in our current budget can incorporate,” he said.

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