Daily Press (Sunday)

Plenty of pickleball pushback on Outer Banks

Parents say sport takes away from youth time in gyms

- By Corinne Saunders

KILL DEVIL HILLS — Resources. Priorities. Attitudes.

These were the main pickleball-related concerns aired during the Dare County Parks and Recreation Advisory Council meeting last week at Family Recreation Park in Kill Devil Hills.

About 20 concerned local parents attended, and three addressed the council during public comment.

Pickleball takes up over 50% of the time Family Recreation Park — commonly called the rec center — is open, according to its calendar of activities, said Jake Overton, a parent who said he was speaking on behalf of a group of citizens.

“It can be here, but it shouldn’t be a priority,” he said. “Children should be 100 percent in the forefront of every decision that we make. Period. That’s our goal.”

Laura Lappin, a parent of three, said she’d requested time for OBX Mommy & Me, of which she’s a board member.

“I could not get one hour of gym time,” Lappin said. “Pickleball gets priority. We cannot request or schedule anything until after pickleball.”

She suggested that a meeting be held about fair scheduling for the facility.

“We shouldn’t have to wait until after someone schedules to be able to put in a request; and they shouldn’t be able to block out all the time,” Lappin said.

Jamie Wentz, a parent and football and basketball coach, said he coaches a travel basketball team.

“Getting an open gym here — even half of it — is ridiculous­ly hard,” Wentz said.

Spencer Gregory, a council member and county employee who was promoted to public services director just over a month ago, addressed rumors that circulated online and prompted some parents’ attendance.

“There’s nothing secretive going on, (and) no vote to take away time from the youth,” Gregory said.

He apologized for not putting the meeting date online and said he’d post all the 2024 meetings dates after they scheduled them in the meeting.

Gregory said Parks and Recreation plans to conduct a needs assessment in the spring. His hope is that weekend gym time in the future will be split between adults and youth, and include a variety of activities.

Advisory council members offered varying opinions on pickleball as they spoke during the meeting.

Amanda Hooper Walters, council chair, said the advisory council discussed in prior meetings many

of the same topics public commenters had addressed. She suggested parents also take their concerns to county commission­ers.

“The pickleball people went directly to the board of commission­ers against our better wishes,” she noted. “They weren’t getting what they wanted here, so they circumvent­ed us and went directly to them.”

George Barr, a council member and co-manager of the 350-member OBX Pickleball Club, said he didn’t understand why people were upset about weekend pickleball hours. He said Dare County commission­ers funded the Saturday and Sunday opening of the rec centers in Kill Devil Hills, Manteo and Hatteras Island for pickleball last fall because no one else was asking for gym time.

“You were sitting across the table from me in this room when we heard from a group of adult men looking for basketball time,” Hooper Walters countered. “And

do you know what we told them? We did not have the funding to staff the building to open the door.”

According to Dorothy Hester, public informatio­n officer for Dare County, $15,000 was added to parttime Parks and Recreation salaries from July 1, 2022, through June 30 to staff opening the three centers on weekends.

There was not a pickleball line item for expenditur­es, Hester said. But estimates for costs of the paddles and “nets and balls primarily” were $1,500 at the Kill Devil Hills location and $800 each at the Hatteras and Manteo locations.

Overton pointed to an inequity he sees. He has to pay fees for his child to play recreation league basketball and football, on top of his taxes. The county, meanwhile, pays for the equipment and extra staff for pickleball. It’s free and “it’s just an open gym” for pickleball players, he said.

That is one of the draws

Betty Davis — a Virginia resident who splits time between there and her second home in Kill Devil Hills — noted of pickleball.

She’s a member of the OBX Pickleball Group, which has over 860 Facebook members. Davis said the sport is fun and social, and there’s “no cost to find out if you like it.

“It’s really great for old people,” the grandmothe­r added. “You get out, you move a bit, you develop friendship­s.”

Courts conundrum

In its June 5 meeting, the Dare County Board of Commission­ers formally approved spending $500,000 for new pickleball courts. Commission­ers had allocated the funding during their April 25 budget workshop. The site hasn’t been determined.

County Manager Bobby Outten said during

Monday’s commission­ers’ meeting that the county stopped pursuing the location off West Satterfiel­d Landing Road in Nags Head because of “the tremendous amount of pushback.”

Commission­ers at the meeting agreed to stop pursuing courts on the property of the Outer Banks Family YMCA in Nags Head.

The YMCA would only agree to a five-year term, and while members would play free, others would pay a fee. The YMCA would additional­ly look to the county to cover any funding shortfall in that plan, Outten told commission­ers.

Outten said the county considered locations on Roanoke Island, but he was informed by many pickleball players that “the pickleball community is mostly on the beach” and courts on Roanoke Island wouldn’t be used.

A potential location in Kitty Hawk would displace a community garden, he said.

Ervin Bateman, a Dare County commission­er and advisory council member, told the council Wednesday the county would next be looking at a potential location in Kill Devil Hills for pickleball courts. He said Town of Kill Devil Hills Commission­er Terry Gray called him and said there are two acres of land by the disc golf course in Kill Devil Hills that the county owns.

“I did not advocate anything for pickleball courts,” Gray said Friday. He said he’d suggested the county join the town in improving that area for “recreation in general.”

Gray said he and Bateman were unclear if the county does own the land he mentioned.

But Gray envisions the county potentiall­y using it for recreation improvemen­ts that would “complement some of the stuff we’re doing for the disc golf course,” such as by adding walking and jogging paths, bathrooms and parking.

 ?? CORINNE SAUNDERS/STAFF ?? People play a doubles pickleball match Thursday mirning in the Family Recreation Park gym in Kill Devil Hills.
CORINNE SAUNDERS/STAFF People play a doubles pickleball match Thursday mirning in the Family Recreation Park gym in Kill Devil Hills.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States