PROVINCETOWN — Complaints about pickleball started with a trickle but have become a torrent, prompting 50 people to crowd into town hall and on Zoom on June 27 to ask the select board to mediate a dispute between those passionately attached to the sport and courtside neighbors who say the game is intolerably noisy.
Many in the crowd came with “I support pickleball” name tags stuck to their chests.
“I did not think it was possible to find more joy in Provincetown, but I did find it in pickleball,” said Ken Fulk, a part-time resident for 31 years. “We live in a tiny town on top of each other. I wake up to trucks backing up from Liz’s market. I don’t complain because I love it. It is the compromise we make.”
Lindsay Davis said she has met many younger people through the sport. “We are truly friends and that never would have happened if it were not for pickleball,” she said.
Neighbors of the Nickerson Street playground, where two pickleball courts were striped last summer, had a different perspective.
“The constant banging of the ball — it is what I wake up to, it is what I work to,” said Judy Gold of 25 Tremont St.
The select board received 43 emails on the topic, 4 against pickleball and 40 in favor. Eight letters came from direct abutters to the Nickerson Street courts. Of those, 4 favored the sport and 4 were against, said Elizabeth Paine, the select board secretary.
Pickleball has dominated recreation commission meetings for nine months, said chair Catherine Nagorski.
Several months ago, the commission formed a pickleball subcommittee with two Nickerson Street neighbors, one “pickleball advocate,” one commission member, and a neighbor of Motta Field, where tennis courts double as pickleball courts.
The subcommittee recommended that the town buy soundproofing for the courts. A recreation gift fund paid half of the $26,000 cost, Nagorski said. The other $13,000 was raised through a social media donation campaign, said Mike Miller, the commission member who served on the pickleball subcommittee.
Volunteers then spent five days erecting fencing around the Nickerson Street courts, Miller said, finishing on June 19. Miller told the select board the fencing reduces noise significantly. The neighbors say it doesn’t work.
The recreation dept. had agreed to limit pickleball hours, with play allowed from noon to 7 p.m. on some days and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on others. Recreation Director Brandon Motta recommended keeping those hours, but the commission overruled him. Having put in all that work, the members wanted the old 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. hours back, Miller said.
Select board member Leslie Sandberg said they should have listened to Motta. “I’m trying to find a compromise,” Sandberg said.
The board directed Town Manager Alex Morse to help find solutions, perhaps spreading out pickleball time with reduced hours at Nickerson Street and more hours at the community center gym and at Motta Field.
Building a court out of town sounds like a great plan. But where? The vacant ground by the transfer station is owned by the Cape Cod National Seashore, Nagorski said. And a town soccer field by Route 6 must remain grass because it sits atop a leaching field, said select board chair David Abramson.
Nagorski and Miller both told the Independent they are grateful that Alex Morse is taking over.
“He has the ability to make things happen more than I do,” Miller said. “Maybe it’s an opportunity for something good to come out of this mess.”