Pickleball not prohibited on CB’s tennis courts…but it’s crowded

Big picture: squeeze needs to be dealt with…Hello, MetRec?

[  By Mark Reaman  ]

With a coffee and donut gathering scheduled to take place Friday morning, June 9, between local tennis and pickleball players, members of the tennis community came to the Crested Butte town council Monday to express a few concerns and ask for help in putting out information. The discussion boiled down to overcrowded courts—too many people vying for too few courts to play either sport in the North Valley. That issue led to some voicing the opportunity to engage the MetRec district for help and even looking at possibly using some Crested Butte Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) money for outdoor facilities outside of town.

The town has three public courts located at the Four-Way Stop in town. The courts were upgraded in about 2014 and a portion of the improvements were funded through private contributions from the tennis community. While there are a few public tennis courts in Mt. Crested Butte and in the Larkspur subdivision, the limited supply means that the town courts are in regular use throughout the summer. There are public pickleball courts in Gunnison and the town provides an inside court at Jerry’s Gym several mornings a week, but the outside summer courts at Big Mine Ice Arena are closed as the skatepark gets renovated.

“The number of people coming to the valley is going up,” said tennis spokesperson Heli Mae Peterson at the June 5 town council meeting. “So are the tennis numbers and the courts are getting more and more crowded. Our main concern is the number of pickleball players using the town courts. There just aren’t many tennis courts in the north end of the valley. 

“We want to emphasize that we are supportive of pickleball players,” continued Peterson. “But the size of a pickleball court is different from tennis courts so a lot goes into changing the court. As a result, some conflicts have arisen, especially at the courts outside of town. We would like some signage at the town courts to inform people where designated pickleball courts are located and where they can go to play pickleball on a pickleball court in the valley.”

“Obviously the tennis courts are a utilized recreational amenity,” said Chris Hensley, who noted that many private individuals donated to the tennis court upgrade and expected them to be used for tennis. “We all need to think about what is coming at us and add to the recreational infrastructure. We need to consider places we can add courts.”

“Having informational signage at the courts would be beneficial for everybody,” added Ann Johnston.

It was noted that dedicated pickleball courts are located in Gunnison, and the town of Mt. Crested Butte plans to renovate one of its tennis courts into three pickleball courts later this summer. The same is said to be happening at Larkspur but nothing has been completed. 

“Two populations are trying to recreate in the same space and while one is historical, the other is new, so what do we do,” asked councilmember Gabi Prochaska.

Responding to a question from councilmember Jason MacMillan, Crested Butte Parks, Recreation, Open Space and Trails department director Janna Hansen said the public courts can be used for both pickleball and tennis. She said while the lines are different and the height of the net is shorter in pickleball, recreational players can use a tennis court without much adjustment.

“We do not prohibit racquet sports on the town courts from a public perspective,” she said, while admitting there is a robust tennis community in Crested Butte. “We are asking the tennis community to not tell people that pickleball is not allowed on the public courts. Multiple public facilities took in private donations to get them completed but various users are allowed to use them. Big Mine is an example of that. We are a small town with limited facilities. We are a multi-use community. We will not disallow pickleball on the public tennis courts.”

“It is a great opportunity for MetRec to get involved as they kick off their master plan process,” said town manager Dara MacDonald. “That is centered on how they can approach the needs of the North Valley and the citizens up here just approved a tax to help with such facilities.”

Councilmember Beth Goldstone agreed that MetRec would be the logical place to bring up the need for more courts and she wondered if pickleball information signage might be appropriate at the town tennis courts.

Councilmember Gabi Prochaska asked if pickleball damages tennis courts and if so, if just one of the three tennis courts could be used for pickleball when available instead of all three. She too liked the idea of engaging MetRec to address the issue.

Councilmember Chris Haver liked the idea of being able to direct pickleball players to dedicated pickleball courts through new signage. “We should also be looking for more court space if we can find the funding,” he said.

Mayor Ian Billick noted that the town’s RETT funds have to be used for open space acquisitions located outside town but wondered if such open recreational courts could count toward that money.

MacDonald said the original ballot language was not definitive in that regard, but staff could investigate the possibility further.

“I am intrigued by possibly being able to use RETT money to tackle some of the problems,” said MacMillan. “There are some opportunities out there.”

“What we are seeing is a lot more people in the valley putting more pressure on infrastructure,” said Billick. “MetRec is a good mechanism to address that issue. What is the role of the town in that? Can we actually think of land acquisitions and keep that lens on when properties become available?”

“Just think about when the Mineral Point and Whetstone affordable housing projects come online,” added Prochaska. “A lot more people will be coming here so there is definitely a growing need.”

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