A Sidney councillor urges action when it comes to finding space for outdoor pickleball courts.
“We need to move forward on this,” said Coun. Scott Garnett. “This has been an on-going issue for several years now and these people have been more than patient.”
Garnett made these comments as he joined Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith as well as Couns. Sara Duncan, Scott Rintoul and Peter Wainwright in defeating a motion to trim the 2021 draft budget of $30,000 earmarked in part for the search of pickleball specific courts in Sidney.
The figure also includes funding for detailed design work following a successful community engagement process. Couns. Terri O’Keeffe and Barbara Fallot voted in favour of striking the funding as council – meeting as committee – continued budget deliberations, arguing Sidney should not be spending more time and money on a process that has already proven unsuccessful.
The item as described in the 2021 budget specifically mentions Brethour Park, but staff had prepared the budget before a subsequent report raised questions about placing outdoor pickleball courts in a residential neighbourhood. That report also identified Tulista Park as a potential site for two courts.
While Garnett acknowledged this issue has become “difficult,” he argued against striking the funding. If all parties, including the municipality and the Saanich Peninsula Pickleball Association, work together, a solution can emerge, he said. He earlier suggested the former Sidney Gateway site as a potential location. “But just to dismiss it, not have money there to look into it, sends a really bad message to these people, who have been waiting for some kind of decision,” he said. “If we cancel this funding, there is a potential that this may never happen.”
Garnett said it is in the interest of the community to have a physically active population. “This is something that is a growing sport,” he said. “Granted, it is a few hundred people at this point in time, but it is growing rapidly and not to have facilities for people to play a sport that is popular, is too dismissive for me.”
McNeil-Smith agreed, pointing to the significant number of pickleball players from Sidney and noting the demand on the facilities in North Saanich.
Fallot said she supports the sport and its players in acknowledging pickleball’s growing popularity and the demand for facilities. But she echoed comments from O’Keeffe pointing to the lack of space in Sidney. Fallot earlier had raised the possibility of approaching Victoria International Airport for a land donation for courts, working with North Saanich.
She also questioned whether it is Sidney’s role to supply courts. “I don’t think a municipality can be everything to everybody, no matter how hard it tries.”
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