Just like the action in tennis and pickleball, there have sometimes been controversial back and forth interactions between players in every sport regarding game time on the two fields of Lewes Canalfront Park.
“We have diehard tennis players and dozens of pickleball players who want to use the courts,” said tennis player Chris Beakey. “There are many good people who are put into these stressful situations.”
To maintain peace, the mayor of Lewes and the city council approved a program, which will be published in the courts, which gives priority to a particular sport by alternating two hours of blocking from 7:00 to 19:00, from Monday to Saturday. On Sunday it operates on a first-come, first-served basis.
Both sports can be practiced if the fields are empty, but the fields must be left free if a person arrives who wishes to play the priority sport.
Councilor Bonnie Osler worked with each group to develop a fair program for everyone. Much of the work has been done by players from every sport, he said.
“All I tried to do was talk to both sides,” he said. “The people who were trying to solve it joined this idea.”
Mayor Ted Becker said the program is a short-term solution for the courts.
“This is a good first step in processing the friction that has emerged between the two sports,” he said.
The use of the courts will be a topic at the meeting of the Committee on Parks and Recreational Activities on 27 July. Barry Dunkin, the commissioner responsible for recreation, playgrounds and sports fields, said the debacle highlights the need for additional pickleball courts in the area. He said the fields of Canalfront Park were built before the pickleball was created.
“Pickleball is really adapting to a tennis court,” he said. “It’s not ideal.”
Kathy Casey, president of the First State Pickleball Club, said there was a clear need for a facility. He said there are probably more than 1,000 people who regularly play pickleball in Sussex County. First State is interested in entering into a land lease in the area, where First State will undertake fundraising and planning.
Great Marsh Park off New Road is a place that has been suggested. The site already houses the Lewes Unleashed dog park and the Lewes Community Garden. Lewes board members agreed that it could have worked, but more work needed to be done before serious consideration.