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Neighborhood in a pickle

Noise from pickleball courts planned at a new park in southeast Medford has raised an uproar in the surrounding neighborhood.

“The bottom line is people don’t want the noise,” said Melissa Traynor, who lives nearby. “It makes a pop, pop sound.”

Noise, parking problems, traffic and turning a small neighborhood park into a destination park have alarmed residents.

“Nobody in this community wanted this,” Traynor said.

Village Center Park, under construction north of Barnett Road and east of North Phoenix, sits across from Shamrock Street in a neighborhood filled with new country-style cottages that residents say they bought because they wanted peace and quiet.

The 3.2-acre, $876,610 park will have playgrounds, sport courts, pathways, lighting, landscaping and a restroom.

The Parks Department received input from Medford residents, including a request for two dedicated pickleball courts, a popular game that is a cross between ping-pong and tennis. A half basketball court is also going to be built.

Traynor cites other media reports of pickleball courts disturbing neighbors with the obnoxious popping noise and the foul language from the players.

“This has become a national problem,” she said.

Traynor and other residents say this will affect the livability of the neighborhood, particularly the houses facing the park, which have limited parking because the garages are around the back off an alley.

“We don’t want this to get ugly,” she said. “People are not going to purchase or pay the price they want us to pay for these houses.”

Rich Rosenthal, Medford Parks director, said he appreciates the feedback from residents, but he’s also heard from other people in the city who want pickleball courts.

“It’s the department’s intention to continue with the park and to build two pickleball courts,” he said. “We are trying to be responsive to a popular activity, not only in the valley but across the country.”

Rosenthal said the noise made by pickleball is not unlike ping-pong.

“If you lived across from the park, I’d be surprised if you can hear anything,” he said.

In addition to Village Center Park, a park at Cedar Links is planned to have a pickleball court, Rosenthal said.

Where possible, existing tennis courts are being retrofitted to allow pickleball as well, such as at Fichtner-Mainwaring, Holmes and North Medford High.

Local residents requested pickleball courts at the basketball court at the Santo Center. First temporary lines were installed to gauge the popularity. Now there are four pickleball courts, with games three days a week.

“We have 40 people at the gym at a time,” he said.

Many of the residents around the Village Center Park wonder why the city doesn’t invest the money into other parks in other neighborhoods plagued by homelessness and other problems.

“We assumed a neighborhood park was going to be for the neighborhood,” said Kathy Chmelir, who lives nearby. “If people are not walking to the park, they’re parking on the street. It’s not a neighborhood park if there are pickleball courts there.”

Laura Phillips, who lives close to the park, said the city should be more resourceful with its money and invest the dollars being spent on the pickleball courts into other parks where there are more problems.

“We should have a say,” she said. With increased traffic, it will have an impact on the small children who play in the neighborhood, Phillips said.

She is moving up from Sacramento into one of the new houses and said she just learned about pickleball courts.

“We were not told about the pickleball courts,” she said.

John Hassen, who lives several blocks away from the park, said he knew the park was going in, but he didn’t know about the pickleball courts. He said he routinely walks past the park area.

“I think it’s a bad spot for them,” he said. “They do not have adequate parking.”

He said it’s not the kind of noise people expect in front of the patio-style homes built facing the park.

“When I was younger I played a little bit of pickleball,” he said. “If I were living there, I wouldn’t like it.”

City Councilor Kim Wallan, who represents the Ward 4 area in southeast Medford, said she lives across the street from Holmes Park, which has a pickleball court on the tennis court.

“It doesn’t seem like a terrible thing to me,” she said.

Wallan said residents need to alert the city if they don’t like something taking place in the city.

Steve Ware, an ambassador with the Southern Oregon Pickleball Association, said pickleball can be bothersome to some people.

“I’m not going to lie to you — it’s noisy. It’s louder than tennis.”

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on @reporterdm.

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