A pickleball-related debacle mulled by the West Linn City Council last fall made its way back this week, when councilors discussed the matter at a meeting last month and heard from a dozen residents with strong opinions on the matter.
The playing of pickleball at Skyline Ridge Park, and primarily the noise associated with it, has reportedly had detrimental effects on the lives of neighbors nearest the park.
Several of these neighbors testified at the meeting, describing the inability to hold conversations inside and outside their homes due to the constant noise from pickleball.
Jane Forbes, who lives next to the park, said her family was not able to get together to celebrate a child's graduation this week due to the possibility that someone would be playing pickleball at the park.
"This time for my family, which is intended to be a time of joy and celebration, has been wrought with discord and physically debilitating stress," she said.
Last April, West Linn Parks and Recreation Department staff converted one of the Skyline Ridge tennis courts into two pickleball courts due to the growing popularity of the sport and the lack of use of the tennis courts. Three months later, the city received its first complaint about pickleball at the park.
After hearing from concerned neighbors about pickleball last September, the City Council voted to ban pickleball at Skyline Ridge Park. The council also directed staff to remove the pickleball nets at the park and not install the noise abatement equipment that parks staff had previously purchased as a solution to the noise issue.
While the nets were removed and caution tape placed around the courts, neighbors reported to the city that pickleball players were tearing down the tape and setting up their own nets to continue playing despite the city mandate.
Though several of the commenters at the meeting decried the city's slow response to the issue and pointed out the detrimental effects of the "trauma-inducing" noise from pickleball, others expressed favor for the game and described it as a family-friendly, inclusive sport.
One woman, who said she lives across the street and visits the park daily with her 3- and 7-year-old children, also expressed frustration. But her concern was the opposite: She wanted the courts opened back up.
"My quality of life and my kids' quality of life diminished when these few families and the City Council took the court away from us," she said.
The opponents to pickleball at Skyline Ridge also argued the traffic associated with the game was a safety concern for children around the park, and they lamented the discord the courts have sown in the neighborhood.
Skyline Ridge resident Ann Bucsh said she was fearful of giving testimony in opposition to the courts because neighbors with that view have already been harassed.
Detractors of Skyline Ridge pickleball have been subjected to "horn honking, blocking of driveways, bullying and shunning," she claimed.
Opponents to the installation of noise-abatement equipment said such efforts by the city would not help ease noise because the fence does not reach as high as some of their second-story windows.
Those opposed to pickleball at the park also derided Councilor Todd Jones for going around the neighborhood recently and asking residents' opinions on pickleball. They were upset he asked others' opinions about pickleball and not theirs.
Jones responded and explained he visited the neighborhood to learn more about the issue shortly after joining the council and hearing about the problem.
"I knocked on every door that I knew to knock on on Stonehaven (Drive) and Aryan Court and Marylhurst Drive and Troon (Drive)," Jones said. "When I got to the homes on Marylhurst Drive that stopped at an open field, I stopped. It was unintentional on my part to not recognize that there were some homes behind the park further down on Marylhurst Drive."
Jones said he found it despicable that some pickleball players may be trying to intimidate or harass residents of the neighborhood. He suggested the neighbors in opposition and those in favor come together with the city and see if a solution could be reached that would satisfy both sides.
Mayor Jules Walters and Mary Baumgardner felt the issue had been hashed out enough and bringing both sides together would not solve the issue.
Walters suggested measuring the sound at the courts both with and without the noise abatement. She also said she wanted the city to conduct a robust survey to get a broader picture of the neighborhood's feelings.
"I think it's unfair and unreasonable to kick the can down the road and keep studying. It's too expensive to make the fence taller. The sound mitigation on that height of fence won't work," Baumgardner said. "It's not going to make a difference. It's still going to be too loud for pickleball to be played in a neighborhood park that's so close to people's homes."
Baumgardner also dismissed Jones' suggestion of both sides working together because it put "pressure on the victim to come forward."
The council tentatively agreed to gather noise data, present it to the neighborhood and make a decision with the neighbors.