Pickleballers Petition to Extend Playing Season, Install Permanent Nets in Beach Haven

Oct 19, 2016

Pickleball players filled the room during Beach Haven Council’s monthly town meeting Tuesday night, Oct. 11, to express their enthusiasm for the game in hopes of getting borough officials to establish permanent nets at the town’s new six-court facility. The local group of players has been increasing since the Nelson Avenue skating rink was renovated last summer to accommodate the growing sport. But the facility’s temporary nets are only accessible until Labor Day, when they’re locked away for the off season, members complained.

Over 2,000 people ranging from teenagers to adults in their 80s and 90s played pickleball at the Nelson Avenue facility this past summer, according to local resident Karl Lombel, a USA Pickleball Association ambassador, who helped get the sport going in town. Although the number of players dwindles during the off season, between 60 and 70 people are still getting together to play at the courts outside borough hall in Long Beach Township, he noted.

Needless to say, the game is very popular. While Beach Haven was the first LBI town to institute pickleball courts, many others have popped up across the Island since then. Local resident Andrea Jones, who presented council with a petition for the permanent nets that included about 100 signatures, noted 2.5 million people are playing pickleball nationally, and 8 million people are expected to be playing the game within two years.

“There’s such an urge to have this for the community,” she stated, noting many people from the mainland come to Beach Haven for pickleball.

Pickleball is a great way for people to get some exercise and create camaraderie with each other, added Lombel. He suggested allowing veterans to play without having to pay the $2 daily or $40 season pass fees, which council adopted this past May.

Lombel also noted that the game has had a positive impact on local businesses since many people from the area and out of state patronize Beach Haven’s restaurants and shops when they come to play.

Councilman Don Kakstis, who is also an avid pickleball player, said Borough Engineer Frank Little suggested the possibility of installing heavy-duty portable pickleball systems, which would cost roughly $7,600 for all six courts.

“We’re very proud of the fact that we have such an active group of pickleball players in our town. It’s wonderful,” said Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis, who agreed it would be nice to extend the game’s season into the fall and spring.

She suggested revamping one of the tennis courts on Pearl Street for pickleball use, to which a few members of the audience, who also play tennis, expressed disapproval.

“You don’t rob Peter to pay Paul,” said Colleen Lambert, a devoted tennis player. “If we need pickleball courts, we should be building pickleball courts. But don’t take them from the tennis facility.”

She asked council to reconsider using the collected tennis fees to repair the three courts that have been in “terrible, terrible shape” for the past few years. Kakstis noted the tennis courts generated $5,800 above costs last year, though the mayor said they’re “very expensive” to maintain.

Lambert also asked that players have access to the better courts during the off season since they were locked up last year as well.

In other meeting news, council voted to bond $1,083,000 of a $1,138,000 project for various capital improvements in town ranging from road, beach walkway and storm water system upgrades to the acquisition of vehicles and equipment for the public works, beach patrol and police departments. A separate $250,000 bond ordinance for the removal and replacement of a portion of the borough’s existing water main pipe was also adopted.

Ordinances and amendments approved on first reading included the requirement of toilet facilities at construction sites, recommendations from public works regarding walkways and signage for single-family/duplex homes and clarification of penalties pertaining to solid waste and recycling violations.

An ordinance for the implementation of the feral cat Trap Neuter Return program, which council never formally adopted despite Stafford Township Animal Control and The Friends of the Southern Ocean County Animal Shelter’s ongoing efforts in the borough, was also approved on introduction.

“It’s exciting because it’ll be the first ordinance on record in the area to really help protect these cats, even though this has been going on for years,” said Kelly Karch, Stafford Animal Control officer.

A Friends volunteer invited audience members to get involved with the program as well as fostering.

Taggart Davis and Council President Jim White encouraged residents to vote in favor of a referendum for a Green Acres tax that will be on the November ballot. If approved, the tax would help the town improve its parks and save money for future projects such as purchasing the old Coast Guard station, which borough employees have been operating out of since Superstorm Sandy.

Local resident Susan Green, who lives across the street from the station, thanked council for making some repairs to the building after she and her husband, Bill, expressed concern about its appearance at a previous town meeting.

In reference to a public request to better include seasonal residents in town matters, raised at a prior “Meet the Candidates” event, Kakstis suggested the council contenders consider supporting holding town hall meetings specifically for these homeowners to meet with council members in the summertime.

— Kelley Anne Essinger


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