North Saanich has launched a three-month-long trial that will see professional security guards close and occasionally open the pickleball courts on Wain Road.
Council last week (June 20) voted unanimously (with Coun. Heather Gartshore absent) to spend $3,000 on a security firm to close the courts at the end of each day, starting in July and running through August and September. Municipal staff will open the courts in the morning on weekday days with the security firm responsible for opening them on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
The courts on Wain Road have been the source of what North Saanich staff call regular public complaints about a variety of issues, including play after posted hours. The courts are open Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
A staff report noted staff are unable to enforce compliance because the courts close after work hours and RCMP enforcement is not what the report called a “justifiable priority” in light of other demands.
By going with security guards, the municipality has opted — at least for now — against putting timed locks on the facility or potentially taking more drastic measures.
Coun. Brett Smyth welcomed the move. It is a “small but positive way forward” that sends an important message, he said.
“The district is serious about dealing with this, but we don’t want to close down this facility.”
Coun. Patricia Pearson agreed, predicting the presence of security guards will create a change in culture and attitude. “It takes the pressure off the neighbours,” she added.
Mayor Geoff Orr, meanwhile, said the data from the security guard will help decision-making in the future.
Coun. Jack McClintock offered the most critical perspective when he asked what would happen if security guards were to ask players to stop halfway through their game. “I can see conflicts arising from this approach,” he said.
Ben Martin, North Saanich’s director of infrastructure, acknowledged that the solution is not ideal, but provides a better opportunity to resolve some of the conflicts in the area.
Rod Ellis, president of the Saanich Peninsula Pickleball Association, said the association is fine with the move, adding that the association has tried to do its best to encourage its players to respect the hours. This said, not all players are part of the association, he added.
Pickleball has emerged as one of the fastest-growing sports in North America but has also sparked conflicts around issues such as noise and parking near facilities.
Local players, meanwhile, have lamented the dearth of dedicated playing facilities, which they say would also help eliminate some of these conflicts.
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