Ocean City Today

Park plan set aside for talks

Grants awarded, but discussions must be had with residents
By Katie Tabeling | Aug 10, 2017
Photo by: Katie Tabeling The Gorman Park racquetball court. Councilman Wayne Hartman said it's an option to remove it an put a pickle ball court in its place.

(Aug. 11, 2017) Another plan for an Ocean City park has been put on the back burner, this time so Recreation and Parks Director Susan Petito can meet with residents at the end of the month to discuss a proposed pickleball court at Gorman Park at 136th Street.

Earlier this year, city officials were notified that their application for a Community Parks and Playgrounds grant to install a pickleball court in Gorman Park was included in the 2018 Maryland Capital budget. Through the Department of Natural Resources grant, Ocean City will receive $115,000 for the court.

But some park area neighbors expressed concerns about the noise the paddle game might make. To find out, the recreation department staff played a test game in the park with wooden racquets in July.

“We went into the house of a gentleman who has concerns, and shut the door, and we heard no sound at all,” Petito said during the July Recreation and Parks Commission meeting. “His house is right across the street from the park.”

Although the test showed no noise, Recreation and Parks Commission Chairman and Councilman Wayne Hartman proposed two alternatives: remove the three-sided racquetball court and put the pickleball court in its place, or to install it downtown.

Hartman said that he received three emails from residents near Gorman park, that include other people opposed to the pickleball court based on the noise level. After asking a few residents last month, he said the consensus is to put the pickleball court where the old racquetball court is.

During a parks master plan session on Aug. 1, Hartman said that the possibility of moving pickleball to the Third Street recreation complex was also ideal, because it could use additional grant funding for overall construction efforts. For months, the Recs and Parks Commission has floated rough renovation ideas for the Third Street Park, with no clear action taken.

“If we have a situation where we’re rebuilding, money to rebuild the park in a place where it’s welcome and it saves taxpayer dollars, wouldn’t that be ideal?” Hartman asked.

The pickleball court could be placed in either location, but the recreation department has pointed out that each decision has a downside. Petito said during earlier meetings that the three-sided racquetball court was well-used by the community and that property owners bought houses there knowing about the noise that came from that court.

As for putting the pickleball court downtown, planning for the Third Street recreation complex park would have to be accelerated. Although councilmembers who sit on the Recs and Parks Commission can generally agree what amenities could be placed there, they elected to wait for Strategic Planning sessions next fall before hiring an architect.

“If that’s the desire of the council, then you would have to build it [the pickleball court] within a year. That means we’d have to move forward very quickly with a plan,” Petito said. “The grant is also specific for Gorman Park, so we’d have to go through a process to change locations. We’ve never done that before.”

Hartman pushed to have all options explored at a meeting with the residents living near Gorman Park. Petito was originally ordered to discuss the results of last month’s pickleball noise test, but Hartman was confident that other locations would be suggested.

“If it’s truly not wanted by the community and not wanted by the people at this meeting, I don’t see the sense in moving forward. Why move forward with something that the residents don’t want?” Hartman asked.  “I’m sure the racquetball court will be brought up. Let’s wait for a bigger audience.”

Petito is set to meet with the residents living near Gorman Park on Aug. 24 at 6 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Northside Park complex on 125th Street. The meeting’s findings will be brought to the full council.


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