The Future of Pickleball at Congress Park: A Controversial Decision

The Noise Issue

Pickleball, a sport that gained immense popularity during the pandemic, is facing a major setback at Congress Park in Denver. Starting April 3, pickleball will be permanently banned from the park due to noise complaints from nearby residents. Denver Parks & Recreation initially planned to move the courts further inside the park to address the noise issue, but they have now concluded that this will not solve the problem. Pickleball, with its constant thwacking sound, has become a source of annoyance for the neighbors who live close to the park.

Impact on Quality of Life

Scott Gilmore, the Deputy Executive Director of Parks & Recreation, highlights that while pickleball is a source of enjoyment for many, it should not negatively impact the quality of life of others. The sport’s popularity has led to non-stop play from 8 am to late hours, causing a disturbance for nearby residents. In fact, a study conducted by the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment revealed that pickleball regularly exceeded the city’s noise ordinance, reaching over 70 decibels at fourteen out of the eighteen homes near the courts.

The City’s Response

Denver is considering implementing a guideline similar to Centennial’s six-month moratorium on new pickleball court construction within 500 feet of homes. Gilmore suggests that future pickleball courts may be built at a distance of 350 feet from residential areas, even with noise mitigation measures in place. However, plans to build new courts at Congress Park, which would have been 300 feet away from homes, have been scrapped. The tennis courts that were supposed to be converted into pickleball courts will remain dedicated to tennis.

Community Reaction

Marc Nelson, the leader of the Congress Park Pickleball Club, expresses disappointment over the decision, feeling that the city “pulled a fast one.” Nelson claims that the pickleball community had no knowledge of the plan to ban pickleball altogether. He believes it is unacceptable to remove the sport without having alternative plans in place to accommodate players.

Regulation and Enforcement

According to Gilmore, the decision to ban pickleball was not made hastily. Parks & Recreation has faced various issues with the Congress Park Pickleball Club, including violations of park rules and an unsanctioned tournament sponsored by a tequila brand. Gilmore emphasizes that the law must be upheld, and if the pickleball court were run by a private business, they would have been required to control the noise or face closure.

Finding a Resolution

Denver Parks & Recreation is updating its noise ordinance this summer, and Gilmore firmly believes that recreational noise restrictions should not be modified to allow for pickleball play closer to homes. The department aims to minimize conflicts between pickleball players and tennis players, as the two sports often share courts. A pickleball advisory group, which includes members from the pickleball community, concerned residents, and city council members, has been formed to identify alternative locations where pickleball can thrive without disrupting others.

The Uncertain Future

Those who have experienced the vibrant community at Congress Park fear that it can never be replicated elsewhere. The social aspects and the sense of connection that pickleball brings to the park are irreplaceable. However, Gilmore emphasizes that it is simply not feasible for pickleball to coexist with other park activities at Congress Park.

In conclusion, the decision to ban pickleball at Congress Park has sparked controversy among residents and players alike. Noise complaints have prevailed, leading to the permanent removal of the sport from the park. While efforts are being made to find alternative locations for pickleball, the loss of Congress Park as a pickleball hub leaves a void in the community. The future of pickleball in Denver remains uncertain, as discussions continue to find a balance between recreational activities and the well-being of residents.

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