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EDITORIAL: It’s a pickle



THWOCK… THWOCK… THWOCK… tickety tick, tick tick.

What could that be but the sound of pickleball players enjoying the sport? It’s something like Ping-Pong played with bigger paddles on a shrunken tennis court. Pickleballers say the game is fun and a way for older people and others to get exercise.

Locally, the neighbors say pickelball is noisy. They cite the increased traffic that goes with more folks traveling to and from pickleball courts.

The small sample of tennis players we’ve heard from give pickleball mixed reviews. They say pickleball played on tennis courts, even with boundary lines for both sports clearly marked, unfairly reduces tennis players’ use of their courts. Pickleball shows no sign of disappearing.

The New York Times gave the pros and cons of pickleball in the Big Apple a 2-page story. The Columbia Paper ran a front page story on the issues that affect Chatham village and the town at the same time. Something’s definitely going on with this game.

It turns out that the Town of Chatham has a state grant to construct pickleball courts at Crellin Park, the town recreation area. The amount? $100,000. And now it gets complicated.

The Town of Chatham is a different municipality from the Village of Chatham. The Town of Chatham has a park with a pond for swimming, a pavilion, sports fields, tennis courts and very soon those pickleball courts courtesy of the state. But less than half a mile away are two more public tennis courts owned by…. the village. You can find them at the end of Jones Avenue, a short residential street.

The pickleballers of Chatham Village are a savvy bunch. They knew an opportunity when they saw one and decided to petition their municipal government. They asked that the two courts be marked for tennis and pickelball. In full disclosure, I signed the petition at the request of a neighbor. It seemed like a neighborly thing to do.

It wasn’t that clear. More dual use courts will mean happy, healthy pickleballers, but the tennis players pointed out it would also mean more traffic and more noise. Noise? In Chatham? How could you hear the sound of pickleballs above the CSX freight trains howling night and day with their safety horns and diesel engines shaking the ground.

Road traffic is a different matter. A road called Austerlitz Street snakes its way down the ridge into the Villlage of Chatham. On its way it passes the street leading to the village tennis court. Too many drivers treat Austerlitz Street as if they’re in a slalom race. Making things worse, there are no sidewalks at all where pedestrians need them most.

The population of Columbia County is one of the eldest in the region by median age and the trend of an aging population promises to continue. That doesn’t sound good for pickleball, our economy or our quality of life.

But there’s enough room in the Chathams for these two sports and more. And there’s an opportunity for villagers to comment at the Village of Chatham Planning Board Public Hearing on August 28. Closer to the date check with the village to confirm where the hearing will be held and when it will start.

Whether or not you attend the hearing, keep in mind that it’s really not a game we’re playing with pickleball. It’s a window into our future.

Any service around here?
The tennis courts at Jones Avenue were empty due to rain on Tuesday, July 26, but they have been a topic of discussion in the Village of Chatham this summer. Some residents asked the Village Board to have pickleball lines drawn and the game to be played on the tennis courts. Other residents have concerns about adding the sport to the site. The Village Board currently has an application in front of the Planning Board for a “Special Use Permit amendment” for the “consideration of proposed pickleball court.” The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on amendment at their meeting on August 28. Photo by Parry Teasdale
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