District of Saanich in a pickle over pickleball noise complaints

WatchThe District of Saanich is attempting to come up with solutions following years of complaints from residents about the noise coming from its pickleball courts. Kevin Charach has the story.

If the weather is cooperating, chances are the pickleball courts at Saanich’s Tolmie Park will be full until sundown.

“I really love it, it’s a very good game,” said Sandy Kirk, one of the dozens of players who used the courts Monday morning.

Pickleball is a relatively new sport with a growing following known for its furious rallies, funny name and signature sound.

“Kind of a hollow twack sound when the ball makes contact with the racket,” said Gary Darrah, manager of park planning and development with the District of Saanich.

Darrah says since the courts were built in 2016, the District of Saanich has received many complaints from residents living in the area.

“We have been fielding complaints for quite some time,” he said. “We feel it’s time to go to council and get some direction on how to approach this problem.”

The Tolmie Park courts — a place that is considered by some as one of the most popular pickleball destinations in the Capital Regional District and where nearby houses are only 22 metres away — have received the most noise complaints followed by the courts at McMinn Park, according to Darrah.

Most of the complaints are related to sounds of the racket hitting the ball, although Darrah says loud talking and laugher generated from the social game have also been noted in some of the complaints.

Saanich city staff are trying to come up with a solution and have recommended several options for council to consider, including one proposed solution that involves the installation of acoustic fencing panels for an estimated $45,000.

There are currently acoustic fencing panels located at Tolmie Park, however, staff believes they need to be modified, heightened and or changed completely in order to successfully mitigate the sound.

Other proposed solutions range from a booking system and limiting playtimes to eliminating the courts.

“One of the other options is to actually take the courts out altogether,” said Darrah, who stressed to CHEK News that staff would prefer a compromise that benefits all parties, hoping to avoid eliminating the courts.

Darrah says relocating courts is a challenge due to a lack of available locations. He also says other municipalities in the CRD will be watching Saanich closely, as the issue stretches far beyond the city limits.

“We’ve been talking to our colleagues in Oak Bay and the City of Victoria as well, and they’re very interested in what we’re up to here and if we do find a good noise solution they will definitely be partnering with us in the future,” said Darrah.

District of Saanich staff will be presenting the pickleball proposal at tonight’s Saanich council meeting.


Kevin Charach

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