Ocean City Today
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Gorman Park keeps pickleball court despite some concerns

By Katie Tabeling | Aug 31, 2017
Photo by: Katie Tabeling Councilman Wayne Hartman, left, points to where the pickleball court will be repositioned in Gorman Park during the Aug. 24 community meeting. Recreation and Parks Director Susan Petito facilitated a meeting with roughly 24 people in attendance.

(Sept. 1, 2017) The pickleball court is still planned for Gorman Park, but it will be relocated as a compromise to residents who expressed concerns at a community meeting last Thursday at the Northside Park complex.

Within minutes of its opening, the meeting devolved into overlapping chatter and shouts between two groups: eight residents who live on South Bay Drive next to the park and 16 other people who live nearby.

“We’re a year-round neighborhood, and it’s literally in our backyard,” said Sarah Tlasek, a South Bay Drive resident. “Why do we have to have it and they don’t have it?”

Earlier this year, Ocean City officials were notified that their $115,000 grant application to install a court was included in the 2018 Maryland Capital budget. The Recreation and Parks department planned to put pickleball courts parallel to the tennis courts, but resident Jim Reda raised questions whether it would create excess noise.

A test game in the park showed nothing could be heard when the doors were closed, but that was not enough for Reda.

“What are we supposed to do when people come to play pickleball, close the doors and put our air on? Not enjoy what we have?” he said. “With all the activity and little parking, people are going to park [on our streets] and walk through our property to get there.”

Residents who supported the idea, however, thought it would be well-used since pickleball has quickly become popular. But the South Bay Drive residents pointed out that of the 16 people in favor of the amenity, only three people lived in the neighborhood.

“I am in favor of this, because I’m in favor of active amenities and we’re a family resort,” said Billie Chambers. “Kids that play on the playground and look over and see relatives playing on it.”

“Then put it in your backyard,” Tlasek said across the room.

Recreation and Parks Director Susan Petito said that while she understood the community’s concerns, parks were active areas.

“People are going to be in parks, and, hopefully, there will be joyful noise and laughing,” she said.

Mike O’Connor, another Sea Bay Drive resident, worried aloud that the new court would increase flooding, an issue that has plagued Gorman Park and the neighborhood for years. Earlier this year, city crews installed a drainage system along Derrickson Avenue that pumps the excess water to the storm drain.

“Putting an asphalt pickleball court there, another impermeable surface, would mean there’s more water that can’t go into the ground, and it’s got to go somewhere,” O’Connor said. “I’ve lived there 18 years, there was no water under my house then. It’s gradually getting worse.”

Petito explained the city is working on the next phase of the drainage issue, but some water will always stay in the park after large rainstorms. The intent of the drainage was to contain the water in Gorman Park rather than letting it trickle down to flood the houses.

After polling those in attendance, Petito proposed moving the pickleball court to a low-elevation spot where the water pools in Gorman Park. Instead of parallel to the tennis courts, the 3,600 square-foot court will be perpendicular to the racquetball court.

Petito said later that reconfiguring the court would require submitting a new site plan to the DNR before the Board of Public Works meets on Sept. 20. That meeting is when the Board of Public Works could award the grants.

“In looking at the site, we will have to move the courts a little farther west so as not to compound existing drainage issues, but will still be able to leave a buffer on either side of the park, and still provide some open space,” Petito said. “I hope to have our new site plan ready to present at the next Recreation and Parks Committee meeting.”

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