By Steve Hubrecht 

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The courts at Mount Nelson Athletic Park (MNAP) will once again have some designated scheduled times for user groups this summer.

Last summer the Invermere Pickleball Club booked the MNAP courts from Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon on a trial basis. This left local teens who used the courts for basketball some mornings throughout the summer with nowhere to play.

Following a sports court survey earlier this spring, as well as discussions with several recreational user groups  — including the pickleball club, the Columbia Valley Mixed Doubles Tennis Association and Invermere basketball players — the District of Invermere has drawn up a schedule for this summer. The new schedule has the courts reserved for pickleball play on Monday through Thursdays, as well as on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Fridays and Sundays the courts will be left open for other user groups in the morning. The courts are also open for user groups in the afternoons and evenings. (The tennis association was not interested in using the MNAP courts at the expense of pickleball or basketball players.)

“We will try to appease the situation this way, and we will monitor how it goes,” said Invermere Mayor Al Miller.

The sports court use survey ran for more than two weeks, from April 22 to May 8, and generated 362 responses.

“The comments and survey results clearly indicate that sports courts users believe there is a need for additional sports courts in Invermere to support specific sports activities — pickleball, basketball, and other activities,” reads a report from Invermere staff on the survey, adding that the district is engaged in discussions with local developers to create additional pickleball courts in Invermere, but those courts, if built, will not be available until sometime in 2025, or possibly 2026.

Pickleball has exploded in popularity in Canada, and indeed all over the world over the past decade. The Columbia Valley is no exception and the Invermere Pickleball Club lobbied Invermere council extensively for dedicated outdoor court space beginning in spring 2022. Local pickleballers turned out in huge numbers at several council meetings to argue their case.

Last summer the courts space conundrum led Invermere councillor Gerry Taft to say, “The ultimate solution is more court space. Multi-use courts or multi-use facilities sound good in theory, but really what we’ve seen is that everybody wants their own dedicated time.”