The Department of Parks and Recreation in Arlington, Virginia, took steps last year to mitigate complaints of excessive pickleball noise by closing a local court at Glebe Park.
Now, residents living nearby Walter Reed Community Center will also be relieved to know the noise from the pickleball courts could be a thing of the past.
A recent county press release has announced that quieter days are on the horizon, with the center installing a 10-foot high acoustic fence between Monday, August 28, and Friday, September 1, weather permitting.
After months of tension and following a widely-discussed New York Times article about the local neighborhood and its pickleball-related challenges, a practical solution has emerged. The acoustic fence aims to address the ongoing noise concerns that have been bothering the community.
The Heart Of The Neighborhood
The community center at the heart of this neighborhood has already established itself as a pickleball hub. Now, as part of the Walter Reed Outdoor Pickleball Court project, it is gearing up to house dedicated pickleball courts.
In response to the residents’ grievances, the county has taken steps to dampen the noise issue, with the acoustic fence a central part of that effort.
While some locals appreciated the forthcoming changes, many were resigned to enduring the noise for a few more years. However, installing the acoustic fence now will bring relief sooner than anticipated, with the rest of the project to be completed over the next two years.
The new plan presented by the county includes creating 6 dedicated pickleball courts at the Walter Reed Community Center. https://t.co/MTjNOE1LJF— WUSA9 (@wusa9) May 24, 2023
A Change For The Better
The fencing will be up until the construction of the main refurbishment starts, says Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Jerry Solomon. It will be properly stored and reused when more acoustic fencing goes up as part of the overall project.
In addition to the acoustic fencing, the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) has taken public feedback into account and revised its plans for the Walter Reed pickleball facilities.
The updated approach includes sound walls, landscaping adjustments, decreased court numbers from nine to six, and a strategic relocation of the courts away from residential areas.
Making Recreation More Harmonious
In light of the persistent complaints, the DPR has been proactive in implementing other measures to minimize the issue. Beginning last fall, the parks department scaled back the court’s operational hours, allowing play from sunrise or 7 a.m., whichever is later, until 10 p.m.
Moreover, the playing hours were further aligned with the community centers this spring. Security was bolstered by installing gate locks, ensuring that after-hours play remains off-limits.
These efforts aim to strike a balance between recreational fun and maintaining a peaceful environment for the community.
A Short Pause for Long-Term Gain
The installation work will mean a temporary suspension of play, and the courts will remain quiet as the acoustic fence is installed — a premonition, perhaps, of more tranquil times ahead for local residents.
The county encourages players to explore alternative playing locations on the County’s dedicated pickleball and tennis web pages.
Research Into New Measures
The pickleball noise problem is very real, with those residents living within earshot of courts complaining and, in some cases, threatening and taking legal action.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom; scientists and engineers like Bob Unetich are researching paddle design and acoustic dampening techniques for sheeting placed around the court, as we revealed in our article here.
Unetich tells how paddle and ball impact have a pitch frequency of about 1.2k Hz, roughly equivalent to the sound a truck makes when backing up.
He has actually formed his own pickleball sound research company and has so far helped by adding sound-absorbent fiberglass layers to previously ineffective acoustic sheeting. The company has also proposed slightly softer balls and thicker, softer-faced paddles to mitigate noise pollution.
At this stage, sound-deadening materials are expensive. Sound barriers used at a pickleball club in Bonita Bay, FL, cost around $50.000, although they did kill noise by between 10 and 15 dBA.
The Walter Reed Community Center is located at 2909 16th St S, Arlington, VA 22204.
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