CAPE ELIZABETH — The Town Council has approved forming an ad hoc committee to explore how to satisfy competing court-time demands from tennis and pickleball players.
Councilors authorized the committee Nov. 4 after receiving a memo from Lise Pratt, chairwoman of the Fort Williams Advisory Commission, asking for a solution to what has become a problem over the past year.
“People feel very strongly about tennis courts and wanting to have courts for tennis, and there are other individuals who really enjoy playing this … activity called pickleball,” Town Manager Mike McGovern said.
According to McGovern and Pratt, pickleball has become increasingly popular with residents. Pratt defined the game as “a racquet and net sport that is played on a court which fits in one half of a tennis court.”
There was an attempt to accommodate both sports earlier this year at Fort Williams, and “particularly the tennis players have been very upset,” McGovern said.
In spring 2014, the FWAC painted lines for a pickleball court on the upper tennis court in the park at the request of local pickleball players. According to Pratt, there were no complaints reported.
Last May, the same group of pickleball players asked for lines to be painted on a lower tennis court near the pond and baseball diamond. The FWAC approved the request on a one-year trial basis.
Pratt said the FWAC has held meetings with tennis and pickleball players to discuss how the trial period has been going, and the commission has also received emails from members of both groups.
She said it has “raised questions about facilities use in the park.”
“It has also become clear that accommodating this new sport should be considered on a community-wide basis, that it is not an issue we can or should resolve within the park alone,” Pratt said in her memo.
Pratt said the Town Council should consider putting pickleball courts at the high school, in addition to finding a solution that will work at Fort Williams.
The ad hoc committee will include two members from FWAC and two representing Community Services. McGovern said he has spoken with Superintendent of Schools Meredith Nadeau about adding the high school’s athletic director to the panel, too.
“This is a sort of form of mediation,” McGovern said. “They will hear all different parties.”
The Town Council said it wants to hear a report from the committee by March 1, 2016.
Last year the Fort Williams Advisory Commission painted orange lines for a pickleball court on an existing tennis court at the Cape Elizabeth park. The commisson has asked Town Council to come up with a better solution.