Amidst the ongoing discussions within the community of the Ojai Valley, about 65 miles west of Los Angeles, about the challenges faced by pickleball enthusiasts in finding suitable facilities for their sport, Greg Doss emerges as a key figure bridging the gap.
His Transformative Experience
Serving as the Ojai Valley Athletic Club Pickleball Director and community liaison, Doss shares his transformative experience with pickleball during the COVID era, emphasizing its role in reconnecting individuals with their community when he spoke to Holly Roberts at Ojai Valley News:
“I found pickleball during COVID and it changed my life. I feel like it saved me. I was sheltering in place. I was living alone. Pickleball was the thing that got me out of the house and back into the community. I think it’s important, especially for the older folks, who may not have anything else. There’s a lot of joy out there.”
Doss has taken on the role of a mediator, working to find common ground among various bodies, including the Ojai Pickleball Inc. group, neighbors affected by court proximity, and the Soule Park Pickleball Project group collaborating with Ventura County to repurpose existing courts into a dual pickleball and paddle tennis facility.
Sound Mitigation Challenges
Facing an imminent January 31 court closure, Doss put himself to work seeking solutions to the city’s sound mitigation challenges. Collaborating with OWL, the first company with a USA Pickleball-approved paddle in the new Quiet category, he has initiated a one-month trial using paddles that reduce noise by a minimum of 50%.
The feedback from City Hall players is positive, saying the quieter equipment has not compromised their gameplay.
As Doss says, “It’s closer to a ‘thud’ sound, and less of a ‘thwack’. The sound engineer noted that it’s the tone of the pickleball sound, more than the decibel that is the issue. These OWL paddles make it so the sound is a dull thud. It doesn’t travel as far and it’s not alarming or grating to the nervous system.”
Feedback Has Been Largely Positive
After two weeks of trialing the paddles, the feedback received has been largely positive. “Ultimately, when I ask them ‘Would you rather play with quiet paddles or nothing?’ 100% said ‘I’ll play with anything as long as I can keep playing,’” Doss says.
Doss’s vision extends beyond the current trial as he’s also contemplating the coexistence of the Ojai City Hall courts and a potential new facility at Soule Park.
With the introduction of Quiet paddles and additional sound mitigation measures, he envisions Ojai City Hall becoming a Quiet-approved site, setting an example for the whole country to address similar challenges.
A Quiet-Approved Site
Doss recognizes the dedication of the core group playing there daily, and advocates for a compromise where these courts become a Quiet-approved site.
He says, “My thinking is that these courts that are downtown are so beautiful – and people have put so much work, effort, money into building them.
“That core group that plays down there almost every day, I just feel like they deserve to continue playing the game that they love.
“And if they do it in a way that doesn’t bother anybody, they shouldn’t have to close down just because courts will open up down the road at Soule Park. Not everyone can get to Soule Park that easily. There is no bike trail to Soule Park and there is an entry fee to get in.”
A Private-Source Fundraising Campaign
In outlining the Soule Park Pickleball Project‘s construction plan, Doss emphasizes the commitment to keeping project costs at $200,000 or less.
The plan includes expanding existing courts, creating dedicated pickleball and paddle tennis courts, and a hybrid court. Upon plan approval, the SPPP plans to launch a private-source fundraising campaign, aiming for construction in late spring or early summer.
He finishes by saying, “I’ve been really inspired by the pickleballers I talk to – they are so passionate and can’t imagine what their life would be like without it. Here’s a compromise that I think could work for everybody.
“I’d like to invite all the neighbors, City Council members and City Manager to come down and experience it. It’s night and day. Hoping that they will at least give us a longer trial period than one month.”
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