The local pickleball scene in Denver, CO, is fighting back against the Denver Parks and Recreation’s (DPR) recent plans to remove courts from two of the city’s popular parks. Denver attorney and avid pickleball player Hollynd Hoskins is leading the charge against parks officials’ decisions to ban the sport in certain areas of the city.
As is true for the whole country, the pickleball scene in Denver has grown exponentially in recent years, and the little court space that’s available is in high demand. The loss of these parks is huge for local players, as it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find outdoor courts.
Denver’s Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE) has received various complaints from Congress Park-goers regarding the sport of pickleball, particularly about pickleball overtaking tennis court space as well as creating a noise problem for the surrounding community. DDPHE followed up by conducting sound tests which confirmed that the sport was causing the noise level to rise above the standard 55-decibel level.
Initially, the DPR planned on solving this issue by moving the courts deeper into the park, which they already had plans to close the courts due to asbestos abatement within the court structure. This way, they’d be able to remove the structures as planned while also giving the community the needed court space.
Additionally, the DPR planned to add four more courts to another nearby park, Sloan’s Lake Park, to appease players who went to the park specifically for the sport. However, on April 3rd, the deputy executive director for the DPR, Scott Gilmore, announced that the new courts would not be built and pickleball wouldn’t be returning to those parks due to the noise being too big of an issue.
“We need to build courts in a location that minimizes conflict, not create conflict. The pickleball activity in [Congress Park] is negatively impacting others…We as parks departments across this country need to minimize that conflict, not increase that conflict by adding pickleball courts where they really shouldn’t be. That goes with anything. You look at athletic fields. You don’t just drop an athletic field in the middle of a neighborhood with lights because those lights can negatively impact people’s quality of life.”Scott Gilmore, Deputy Executive Director for the DPR
Hoskins has since stepped in with an administrative appeal to represent the community of more than 7,000 pickleball players across Denver, including the 1,400 members of the Congress Park Pickleball Club who are now left without a court to play on. While admitting that the sounds created by the game of pickleball can be noisy, the appeal argues that the decision to completely ban the sport and remove players’ access to the game unjustly excludes them from certain parks.
The decision for the DPR to ban the sport and remove the courts could violate municipal code rulings and also goes against the advisement of other city departments. Hoskins thinks that the DPR intends to claim that the ban could be considered an immediate public health issue as a temporary directive, which would then only be in effect for up to 180 days.
“They knew they were going to make the decision and they decided to design a media campaign of fabricated information and disinformation to announce a temporary directive. It’s an arbitrary and capricious unreasonable unilateral decision. I’m asking the board who oversees the department to intervene.”Hollynd Hoskins, Attorney
As part of the pickleball community’s response to the ban, dozens of local pickleball players joined together at Martin Luther King Jr. Park yesterday, May 8th, and played pickleball in protest. Players banded together at the park’s four pickleball courts, many wearing Congress Park Pickleball Club T-shirts, and played games with other locals to support their cause.
Players hope the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board will hear their appeal at a public hearing this Wednesday. By presenting the request, they hope to find a better solution to the problem that will satisfy both the pickleball fanbase and the surrounding neighborhood communities.
Hopefully, Hoskins’ efforts will rally support from the greater Colorado pickleball community in hopes that DDPHE and DPR leaders will hear them out and determine a compromise. The sport continues to grow in Denver, and all of its players deserve to have a court to call home.
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