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What’s all the racket? Residents oppose pickleball courts at park in Peterborough, Ont.

A rowdy gallery and heated debate Tuesday was not enough to convince city council in Peterborough, Ont., to halt plans to add 16 lighted pickleball courts at Bonnerworth Park.

Council last October approved the $4.4. million redevelopment plan, which includes adding 16 lighted pickleball courts, expanding the existing 20-year-old skateboard park and adding a specialize bike track.

Currently at Bonnerworth, two of its four lighted tennis courts are lined to support four pickleball courts. The new courts are part of long-term plans to expand upon the current four pickleball courts across the city as the sport surges in popularity across Canada.

However, since the redevelopment project was first announced, residents living near the park have argued additional pickleball courts will create unwanted noise and light pollution.

Some residents have also argued there was a lack on consultation on the project.

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“This is not NIMBY-ism. This is — no one wants this in their backyard,” said resident Jennifer Burnard who lives directly across from the park.

The pickleball courts received new attention during Tuesday’s general committee meeting as Coun. Joy Lachicha presented a motion to halt the project for further review. She said the project will result in reduced greenspace and that some park users are being impacted since the project will also remove existing baseball diamonds and tennis courts.

She also amended her motion to expedite consultation with local residents with 45 days.

Click to play video: 'Pickleball pickle: Peterborough residents protest Bonnerworth Park redevelopment project'

Pickleball pickle: Peterborough residents protest Bonnerworth Park redevelopment project

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“We need those extra pickleball courts,” she told Global News on Wednesday. “We need to figure out a template to service the needs of our whole city, but not at the extent of our local community.”

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Residents opposing the park redevelopment also voiced their concerns . Some jeered and booed during council’s discussion, disrupting proceedings.

Coun. Andrew Beamer, chairing the meeting, ordered one man to leave the council chambers due to his outbursts.

The discussion also got heated between council when Coun. Alex Bierk referenced the mayor’s wife: “Karen Leal is going to lend me her raquet, I see them playing at the Y.”

An incited Mayor Jeff Leal retorted and pointed at Bierk: “That’s not fair. Don’t mention my wife’s name… you crossed the line.”

Bierk apologized, saying he meant it in a “positive way.”

“I was trying to acknowledge the fact that I personally am very excited about pickleball,” he said.

Leal, after stating to Beamer that Bierk was “out of line,” responded to Bierk: “You’ll regret you ever said that.”

A conceptual design for Bonnerworth Park in Peterborough, Ont., which includes 16 lit pickleball courts.

Lachicha’s motion was eventually voted down 8-3. Rising construction costs due to delays being a main concern, noted Coun. Lesley Parnell.

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Lachicha says in the future, the city needs to ensure residents’ voices are heard. Bonnerworth’s redevelopment also include the removal of exisiting baseball diamonds and tennis courts.

“A Parks and Recreation development plan at a $4.5-million price tag requires a look and sometimes a second look and a third look by council,” said Lachicha.

The city has said consultations on the project began during a master plan adopted in 2020. Staff also say previous pickleball tournaments held at Bonnerworth Park did not result in complaints.

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Leal says the city will add barriers to reduce noise levels. Over $2 million for the project was approved in the city’s 2024 budget with the remainder set for 2025.

“There will be a comprehensive site plan developed,” Leal said. “There will be berming put in place. There will be a vegetation, planting put in place to mitigate any sound.”

Burnard says she’s not against the sport, but remains concern about the impact the noise will have in her neighbourhood.

“City council’s should represent their constituents and right now what I’m seeing is the only constituent being represented here is a small pickleball community,” she said.

She says residents intend to speak again at city council’s meeting on Monday, noting if efforts fall short, they may consider taking legal action.


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