PLAYERS IRATE OVER RATE HIKE
Non-Wilton residents asked to pay more
WILTON, N.Y. » A $2 rate increase for a popular Gavin Park activity might cost Wilton more in the long run by driving people away, fee hike opponents say.
Many area seniors take part in daily games of pickleball, similar to tennis, but played on a much smaller court with paddles and plastic whiffle balls.
Games are held outdoors in summer at no charge to participants. But the program is headed indoors beginning Monday and the Town Board, at new Recreation Director Mark Marino’s suggestion, recently increased fees from $3 to $5 per day for non-Wilton residents, effective Jan. 1.
Town residents will still pay the lower amount.
“What they don’t understand is the camaraderie,” said Alan Ross of Wilton, an avid player. “People from Clifton Park to Glens Falls come here. There’s a list of more than 100 people. About 15 to 20 come every day. We don’t know what percentage are nonresidents. If these people stop coming, it hurts the whole program.
“They don’t just come here to play,” he said. “Afterward, they have lunch or go shopping in Wilton. We’ve already had some non-residents say they aren’t going to come any more.”
The town’s recreation program costs $1.3 mil-
lion, but revenue from fees totals $533,000, or roughly one-third the expense, town Comptroller Jeff Reale said.
The increase for pickleball is one of several recreation rate hikes the Town Board approved recently.
The Junior NBA program at Gavin Park is going from $125 to $135 for residents, $10 more, but an extra $20 for non-residents from $165 to $185.
The cost of a summer camp program, which includes field trips, is going up $50 from $775 to $825 for residents, and from $1,150 to $1,200 for nonresidents.
Gym rentals at Gavin Park are increasing $5 from $55 to $60 for residents, and from $65 to $70 for non-residents.
Athletic field rentals will be $2.50 more, from $37.50 to $40 for two hours.
Marino could not immediately be reached for comment.
Councilman Steve Streicher, the town board’s recreation department liaison, said, “We’re not looking to make money. We’re not looking to lose money, either. We want to cater to our residents first.”
Pickleball players bring their own paddles. Balls and most nets are supplied by the town. In past years, the town has also treated players to help-yourself coffee and snacks.
But players say they’ve spent more than $600 of their own money for one of the indoor nets, and a large plastic windscreen on one of the outdoor tennis courts fences.
Jack Jacknowitz, 88, of Saratoga Springs, said pickleball is a regular part of his exercise routine.
“I was a handball player all my life,” he said. “At 82, I said, ‘That’s it. I can’t do it any more.’ So I came out here. I can do this. It’s not that hard.”
Craig Morris, of Saratoga Springs, said he cofounded the Gavin Park pickleball program about 10 years ago. People like playing there because all ability levels are welcome, and the competition is friendly, he said.
Morris said he’ll stop coming if the town doesn’t eliminate the rate hike.
“It’s not the money,” he said. “It’s about principle.”
Ross said he understands the expense involved with running the town’s recreation program. However, Wilton also has $6 million worth of surplus funds. So he doesn’t understand the need to raise rates.
“We want it to be justified and we want it to be fair,” he said.
Pickleball is played on a court, similar to tennis. But the playing area is much smaller. Players hit a plastic whiffle ball with paddles.
Saratoga Springs residents Craig Morris, left, and Jack Jacknowitz, right, are upset that the town of Wilton has imposed a fee hike for non-town residents who play pickleball indoors at Gavin Park.