The Public Works Department completed the removal of nets from most of the city’s courts on Thursday, with the remaining few expected to be finished in the coming days. Traditionally, Milford closed courts during winter, but since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, the courts remained open year-round, offering a healthy outlet for the community.
Bill Garfield, the Recreation Department Director, opted to reinstate the seasonal closure due to concerns about wear on court equipment, the potential damage from players using their own nets, and the risk of harm to tennis net posts, cranks, and the surface of the courts caused by snow and ice shoveling.
He emphasized the decision was influenced by “minor damage” at one court due to the incorrect installation of a privately owned net.
“It’s preventative maintenance, and it (pickleball) is out of season,” Garfield told Nick Sambides, Staff writer at the Milford Mirror, adding the city was trying to complete the maintenance work before impending snowfall.
“We have seasons for everything. There is a football season, the Board of Education has a season, and pickleball has a season (!),” he said.
Despite the official closure of outdoor activities, indoor pickleball is still available at the West Shore Recreation Center on weekdays for a seasonal fee ranging from $40 to $100, running through March.
Nevertheless, several residents expressed bitter disappointment at the reinstated rule.
Felicia Shashinka is a resident and founder member of the Milford Pickleball Association (MPA). She is also a member of the city’s Park and Beach Commission and deputy director of operations for the New Haven Parks and Recreation Department.
She voiced her discontent, saying, “I am very disappointed. There aren’t a lot of things to do come winter. As long as the weather stays OK, I feel bad that this gets taken away.”
Wear And Tear
MPA has a sizeable 450 members and plays at Eisenhower Park from 8 a.m. to noon on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. All for the reasonable fee of $25.
The city hosts 24 pickleball courts across five facilities. Still, some, like Bill Wasilewski, also a founder of the MPA, challenged the city’s reasoning behind the closure, arguing that wear and tear on courts is inevitable.
Courts always wear down, he said before adding, “If you close the courts all the time, nothing will ever wear. I mean this in the most affable way: the people who play pickleball have an addiction to the sport.
“The only way to cope with this addiction is to play. The season is 12 months a year, weather permitting.”
No Conclusive Decision
He and Alderman Paul Healy attempted to negotiate with Garfield to keep the courts open, but the meeting yielded no conclusive decision.
Shashinka noted that over in New Haven, officials were keeping their courts open throughout winter.
Planning to raise the issue at the upcoming commission meeting on January 3, Shashinka proposed safeguarding the courts by advocating for the placement of “No Shoveling” signs, believing this measure could effectively prevent significant damage, particularly cracks in the court surfaces.
Efficacy Of Signage
Her confidence in the efficacy of signage stemmed from her personal experience: “I think signage goes a long way,” she said. “I put those signs up there myself in Eisenhower when I came in there because I didn’t want the courts damaged, and it worked.”
Emphasizing the maturity and responsibility of pickleball players, often of an older demographic, she underlined their capability to handle the situation sensibly.
Meanwhile, Garfield confirmed that outdoor pickleball would resume on the courts on March 15th.
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