City of Chilliwack extends search for pickleball location

Yarrow will not house a new pickleball facility after concerns were raised by residents

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By Graham Abraham

The City of Chilliwack is looking for an alternate location for a new pickleball facility after Yarrow residents opposed a proposal to locate a court next to their community centre.

Carol Bell, community centre manager and volunteer with the Yarrow Ratepayers Association, said the group found out about the proposal when one of their members came across a conceptual drawing in the city’s budget. The drawing showed the Yarrow Community Centre adjacent to a pickleball facility. Bell said that while the city owns the land where the facility would have been located, the Ratepayers Association built, owns and maintains the community centre.

“We were blindsided that a decision appeared to have been made already.”

“[The city] has been doing their 10-year plan for a while now. And this is when [the pickleball facility] was going to be announced, the approval for this budget, at the next council meeting,” said Bell. “One of our members spotted it on there with a picture of the pickleball courts as they would have appeared on the site plan at the community centre.”

Bell described the centre as a location for weddings and social gatherings, complete with a seniors lounge and a library. She said a pickleball facility next door would have caused an increase in traffic and noise near the centre.

“It just does not work to have your wedding going on, and a pickleball game going on 10 feet away.”

After the Ratepayers Association sent “a blitz of emails to engineering, planning, parks department, letting them know that we were not pleased,” Bell said the city reacted swiftly to its concerns.

“We heard back from them very quickly actually, by the time the next council meeting was held. The PowerPoint presentation had been changed: they were looking for a site to put in pickleball courts,” said Bell.

“I think we deafened them with our concerns, to tell you the truth.”

City committed to consultation

Coun. Bud Mercer said that council approved $300,000 in capital expenses to commit to building new pickleball facilities. The location in Yarrow had been earmarked as a possibility by city staff, resulting in the conceptual drawing of the facility next to the community centre. However, that location was tentative and subject to consultation. When the Ratepayers Association expressed its anxiety, the plan was updated to indicate that a search for a location was ongoing.

“Through the consultation with the Yarrow residents, it was determined that the fit is not good, so we’re still looking,” said Mercer.

The councillor said Yarrow was floated as an option because the city wants to balance the volume of recreational options across neighbourhoods, and to ensure no neighbourhood is being overlooked.

“There has to be a fit for the sport, there has to be a fit for the community and the neighbourhood, and there has to be a fit for the user [of facilities],” said Mercer.

He added that he hoped to avoid the conflicts over pickleball that have emerged throughout B.C.

“I’ve recently been sent some articles from other cities. You need to be careful where you put pickleball, because it’s not welcoming everywhere.”

Pickleball club unfazed

Lyle Simpson, president of the Chilliwack Pickleball Club, is not deterred by the change and ongoing search for an adequate location.

“We support the residents [of Yarrow]. If they don’t want it there, we definitely don’t want to go there. In fact, it will probably work in our favour, because we would rather have it in a more central location,” said Simpson.

The club, made up of 324 members, sees around 70 people show up on a weekend to play at the city’s only current designated outdoor pickleball facility. Other locations to play include tennis courts with lines painted to mimic pickleball courts.

Simpson echoed Carol Bell when he explained why the club did not feel comfortable imposing on the Yarrow Community Centre: “Who wants to have a wedding when there’s people playing pickleball in the background?”

The president has a vision for the future of pickleball in Chilliwack.

“The way forward in the city is for all the racquet sports, tennis, pickleball, racquetball and squash, to get together and approach the city and try to build facilities that will house us all.”

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