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Local civic association says parks department ignoring their pickleball court objections

Pickleball restriping plans for Marcey Road Park (via Arlington County)

Arlington County’s pickleball plans continue to peeve particular people, prompting a potential project pause.

The Donaldson Run Civic Association (DRCA) sent a letter to the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) late last week expressing the belief the department did not sufficiently involve the civic association when making the decision to re-line several tennis courts for pickleball at Marcey Road Park in North Arlington.

“DRCA does not believe the public engagement process for selecting Marcey Park as a pickleball destination provided any real opportunity for input from our neighborhood,” reads the letter signed by DRCA President Bill Richardson.

When initially shown plans for the redesigning of Marcey Park, it did not include any pickleball courts, the letter says, adding that the neighborhood had “specifically rejected pickleball use there.”

Parking is one of the big issues, says DRCA, due to the popularity of the park as well as nearby Donaldson Run Pool and Potomac Overlook Park. Adding pickleball would only exacerbate the issue.

“As we understand it, DPR believes that these problems will not be significantly aggravated by adding pickleball to the already growing existing demands for these various facilities concentrated at the end of Marcey Road,” Richardson writes in the letter. “This view seems inconsistent with the extent of the pickleball craze.”

What’s more, the letter alleges — perhaps erroneously, per the county — that this restriping is scheduled to take place as soon as early as next week, providing a very shortened time frame for the DRCA to provide its thoughts.

“This appears to underscore your determination to disregard any input from our neighborhood in making this decision without regard to the unique problems here,” the letter says.

In response, a DPR spokesperson told ARLnow that there have been numerous opportunities for the public to provide feedback over the last several years. That includes the Outdoor Courts Assessment project, which dates back to the fall of 2021. That assessment determined that Marcey Park was one of eight county parks or community center where it was appropriate to restripe for pickleball.

Altering courts for multiple uses is also a fairly common practice in the county, the spokesperson said.

“Restriping courts or athletic fields for multi-use is a common operations practice in Arlington,” they said. “DPR often puts down soccer lines on diamond fields or have hard surface courts that are striped for basketball and volleyball, for example.”

In addition, restriping for pickleball will not begin next week,  but rather basic maintenance work and the repainting of tennis lines will be taking place.

“Starting the week of June 26, the courts at Marcey Road Park are being repainted and relined for tennis. The addition of pickleball lines at Marcey Road Park does not begin on June 26,” said the spokesperson. “This is in preparation for the addition of pickleball lines later this summer.”

The latest opposition to DPR’s attempts to increase pickleball facilities across the county echoes other concerns that have played out in recent months.

Last fall, the Old Glebe Civic Association threatened legal action against the county for ending a pilot program without input from the community. Shortly thereafter, neighbors of the Walter Reed Community Center also announced they were contemplating a lawsuit to stop increasing the number of courts at the nearby community center.

The current plan for the Walter Reed Pickleball Project is to add six dedicated pickleball courts, restripe the basketball court to add more courts, and install sound-reduction fencing plus seating and signage. In recent weeks, though, the county has said it’s willing to tweak the plans or, even, pause it outright depending on the outcome of a public survey.

The survey, released last month, asks residents to weigh in on two different concepts for the project. The concepts mostly differ on layout, the courts’ proximity to certain portions of the neighborhood, and the number of parking spots. However, it also provides an option for residents to vote to “pause” the project altogether.

“The Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) has received a request in a joint letter from pickleball players and neighbors to pause the project so that the County can conduct a broader study to identify another location for standalone pickleball courts,” reads the survey’s website.

It also clarifies that a “pause” would actually mean “the Walter Reed Outdoor Pickleball Court Project would be halted.” Instead, the county restripe several of the tennis courts, as opposed to building dedicated pickleball facilities.

Locals have until this Thursday (June 22) to provide thoughts on what the county should do about the controversial pickleball project.

The survey has led to more anti-pickleball flyers being distributed around the neighborhood. The flyers are similar to those from earlier this year, accusing players of bullying children and saying that the county is being “wasteful” in spending more than a million dollars to build additional pickleball courts.

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