A player returns a serve during a game of pickleball at the Klahani Park courts in September 2017. (File photo)

A player returns a serve during a game of pickleball at the Klahani Park courts in September 2017. (File photo)

Feelings prickle over use of Salmon Arm pickleball courts

Club plans to play as ‘public’ after proposed city use agreement rejected

Attempts at an agreement between the City of Salmon Arm and the Salmon Arm Pickleball Club over court usage at Klahani Park have left a sour taste in the mouths of some of those involved.

At city council’s May 27 meeting, Coun. Debbie Cannon said the club did not show up for a meeting with city reps but she was told the club is disbanding.

“We were in a little bit of a pickle – but not really,” she remarked, noting the courts previously booked by the club will be open to the public for lessons and games. She said she has a feeling the club thinks it can still run the league there without paying.

At issue appear to be costs charged by the city to the club, and times for exclusive use.

Russ Scott, who commented to the Observer the following day as a club spokesperson, said the club remains intact.

“We are a registered club and we want to keep it going… We play as the public now,” he said of court usage at Klahani Park. “We haven’t disbanded, we’re an organized club. New members are always welcome.”

He said he was not able to comment further but the club might be issuing a statement.

The club’s contention to play for free as the public raised the ire of some members of council.

Coun. Tim Lavery said he’s usually “a glass half-full kind of guy,” but he’s seen no intention from the club to work with the city to ensure public access to the courts.

“It wouldn’t be beyond me to take a few of the nets down,” he said. “We’ve been trying to work this out for a long time…”

Mayor Alan Harrison said he’s okay with the courts being public seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

“Our job is to make sure the public knows that.”

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Last year the city charged the club $50 per member (approximately 70 members) for having exclusive use of some of the courts at varying times of the day and week from May 1 to Sept. 30. The city received complaints from the public regarding access to the courts, which were built and are maintained by the city as a public facility.

A May 1 letter to the city from Darby Boyd, general manager of the Shuswap Recreation Society, proposed changes to the agreement based on feedback from the club and the public regarding the inaugural year.

The amended agreement proposed reducing the annual fee from $50 to $25 per member, and increasing the number of days of exclusive use of three of the six courts to Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to noon and 5 p.m. to dusk. The club would ensure one court would be available at all times for the public during their scheduled times. The agreement would also allow a storage container on site, would provide exclusive playing privileges for one weekend for a tournament, and would provide one free room rental per season for a club meeting.

Council discussed the proposed agreement on May 13, where concerns were expressed about public access during prime evening times, and the low fee compared to private facilities and to the cost of field/court rental for other sports. Council agreed that Coun. Cannon and Boyd return with a recommendation for council.

A May 21 letter from Cannon and Boyd to the club recommended keeping the fee at $50, having exclusive use of four rather than three courts, but reducing the exclusive morning hours to three days a week and the evening hours to two days per week.

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