Washougal OKs $20K for pickleball courts

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

Published:

 

The tennis courts at Washougal's Hathaway Park will get a makeover thanks to a city council decision to use leftover money from its budget to accommodate a niche activity.

The city will use at least $20,000 to refurbish the park's crumbling tennis courts for a paddle-and-net sport called pickleball.

The concept was supported by council members Dave Shoemaker and Connie Jo Freeman, two of the council's staunchest fiscal conservatives. They'd previously discussed stripping the city's $7,500 subsidy of the Children's Home Society of Washington because they believed the nonprofit referred pregnant women to medical services that provided information about where to get an abortion.

Shoemaker also balked at the notion of Washougal spending money on a social service organization. Freeman eventually backed off her opposition to the organization, and Washougal's subsidy passed Dec. 9, along with the rest of the city's $34.3 million budget.

But when it came to pickleball, Shoemaker expressed excitement at the opportunity to attract visitors to the city.

"This project will make usable a tennis court that's unsafe and offer recreational opportunities for our residents and guests from ages 8 to 80 — kind of like Disney World," Shoemaker said.

Some people scratched their heads at the sour-sounding sport. Council member Brent Boger said he had to look up what pickleball was on the Internet. He ended up supporting the proposal.

Others questioned whether spending thousands of dollars on a pickleball court was the best use of money.

Jennie Brown, president of East County Little League, said she didn't understand why council members felt so strongly about spending the money on pickleball and not on Little League. East County Little League is currently raising money to build a permanent concession stand at the George Schmid Memorial Ball Field Complex.

"If pickleball is something you're willing to spend money on, I don't know why you wouldn't also be willing to spend money on Little League," Brown said. "I'm not looking for a particular amount of money. I'm just asking for something."

The sport has its supporters, especially in Washougal and Camas. The sport was demonstrated at Hathaway Park in July, where enthusiasts used one of the park's four cracked tennis courts to knock their pickleball around.

The sport is similar to other net-based sports, such as badminton and table tennis. Opponents take sides across from each other on a court and use paddles to whack a whiffle ball back and forth. It's akin to a slow-motion version of tennis, making it a popular sport among seniors.

The $20,000 will go to the parks department and be set aside for the project. The city will have extra money to spend next year because it won't have to pay for a state audit. The state audits Washougal every two years at the city's expense.

The city set aside another $3,300 for the parks department, which could also be used on pickleball courts.