By Steve Hubrecht

Passion for pickleball — and for other forms of recreation  — remains high, and the potential use of Mount Nelson Athletic Park (MNAP) courts by the Invermere Pickleball Club was again discussed during the most recent Invermere council meeting.

The topic first leapt to public attention at the Tuesday, Apr. 26 council meeting, when a crowd of 40+ Invermere Pickleball Club members filled the meeting gallery and pressed Invermere council about letting the club use the MNAP courts in the morning and on some evenings, letting the club use the MNAP concession building for storage, and developing a long term solution to the lack of dedicated pickleball courts in the valley. Pickleball was on the agenda again at the very next council meeting, held last week on Tuesday, May 10, and again pickleball players turned up, although not in the same large numbers on Apr. 26

At the May 10 meeting, council agreed to let the club use the MNAP concession building for storage, and asked the club to submit a cost estimate for building new pickleball courts (which the club did, even before the meeting began), but declined to commit any specific times at the MNAP courts for the club just yet.

Invermere Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Young explained that, since Apr. 26, more information on other MNAP court users had come to light, noting that “there has been, since the publication of the issue, a very large amount of correspondence that has come in.”

Young said much of that correspondence had come in the few days just before the meeting and that council may need time “to consider the volume of material, received late…and consider the full ramifications (of that material).” 

Several councillors quickly agreed to this idea, but Gerry Taft was opposed to waiting any longer.

“How this has played out has not been ideal,” said Taft, saying he felt the tone of the discussion had become adversarial.

“There is, for instance, a number of tennis players who feel that the tennis courts by Pynelogs are somehow threatened, which is certainly not the case,” said Taft. “I personally don’t understand why we need to delay this another two weeks and makes things more complicated.”

“To me, the least complicated option is that we keep the status quo — we all share the sandbox,” replied Councillor Kayja Becker, referencing the longstanding unofficial policy that have seen the MNAP courts operated on a first-come, first-serve basis, with users asked to limit their time on the courts to no more than one hour.”

“But why not at least try one night a week, for pickleball?” queried Taft.

“Because in the last number of days, a huge number of emails have come in,” replied Councillor Greg Anderson. “We’ve heard from a lot of user groups. We have a responsibility to all user groups, not just the pickleball club.”

“We need to change the way we are looking at this. The debate so far has been ‘don’t take away my space’ not ‘let’s make more space’,” responded Taft.

The district received a letter jointly sent by local men’s basketball coordinator Justin Woodman, David Thompson Secondary School (DTSS) Athletic Director Christina Paolini, and Steve Nash Youth Basketball Coordinator Nadine Hale outlining that local youth do use the MNAP courts for basketball, but indicating a desire to be flexible and share the courts as much as possible.

“Something to consider is that even though the basketball courts may not be in use at a given time, that it is still very important that it be available for use so the opportunity exists for the youth to go there. As a parent of two teenagers I can speak — and I know I am speaking on behalf of other parents — to how thankful I am — we are — that these courts exist for the youth,” wrote Hale in the letter. “This is one of a few ways they can occupy their time with their friends in constructive ways, staying fit, healthy, busy, outdoors and out of trouble.”

“We will get through this, and we will be better for it. It’s just a bit of a process,” Anderson told pickleball players in the meeting gallery.