Chesterton Tribune



Okay Boomer: Youth tennis community objects to perceived pickleball putsch

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One month after a group of senior pickleballers asked the Chesterton Park Board to convert one of the tennis courts at Chesterton Park into a permanent, dedicated pickleball court, a CHS girls tennis player presented a petition signed by more than 200 people urging the Park Board to leave the tennis courts at the park as they are.

Gretta Burke, 15, reading from a prepared statement at the Park Board’s meeting Wednesday evening, argued that--contrary to the pickleballers’ assertion--the Chesterton Park tennis courts are frequently used by youth tennis players, that the twin courts are a vital resource in the development of student-athletes, and that they’re centrally located and therefore easy to walk or bike to from anywhere in Chesterton west of Ind. 49.

Burke also took the trouble to poll CHS tennis coach Tom Bour and CMS coaches Kyle Prow and Bill Heintz on their view of the issue. All three concur that the Chesterton Park tennis courts--both of them--are integral to the tennis program. “I don’t believe the tennis community is denying pickleball’s growing popularity,” Burke quoted Bour. “But I also don’t see why one has to eliminate the other based on opinions or comments like ‘Well, I don’t see tennis players playing on them,’ for example. Our middle school tennis program in the last five years has averaged over 60 kids each year. Duneland Schools has to bus kids to the high school just to practice because 60 kids don’t work on a couple of courts.”

“Our middle school tennis program has been one of the most successful programs in the area since its creation,” Bour added. “And since 2001 our men’s and women’s teams have earned 12 sectional titles, 10 Duneland Athletic Conference titles, and two regional titles. We are talking about eliminating a tennis court, but there’s a better argument for adding more tennis courts. If the two sides were smart, they’d fight for more tennis courts, with pickleball lines built into them. It’s a win/win that way.”

Prow, for his part, noted that the CMS tennis team has had more than 50 players each year since its establishment in 2015, and that the Duneland summer and fall tennis camps--the CMS and CHS tennis feeder program--has positively “boomed” over the last five years. “The tennis courts here at Chesterton Park are centrally located and very easy for players to walk or ride their bikes to,” Prow said. “Taking a tennis court away would be a big loss for our community. If anything is to change, I would hope that the town looks into adding more tennis courts, so that people can play pickleball and tennis alike.”

“As coach of the middle school team,” Heintz said, “I can say that we have occasions where we use the courts outside the middle school. We have a very large team and we will sometimes use them for individualized practices with high school tennis team coaches. We also may use them when we have an away match and are waiting for the bus to arrive. I will also see the courts used during the day outside of tennis team activities. I would be in favor of maintaining this site as one with the opportunity for students and others in the community to be able to use these courts for playing tennis.”

Burke concluded her comments with a final plea to the Park Board. “It is not that we cannot continue to share the court with pickleball players as was the intention of Bruce Mathias upon his retirement,” she said. “This system of sharing has been operating on a first-come/first-served basis since that time. But as of this summer, a sign went up and tennis players began getting kicked off. A new sport coming to light is wonderful but not at the expense of others. These courts are frequently used by a large tennis community. Much of that community consists of young students unable yet to drive and who depend on the location of these courts. There is nowhere else in town that has tennis courts with the kind of accessibility that the Chesterton Park courts do.”

Greg Engels, whose son plays for the CHS tennis team, made no bones about the fact that the Chesterton Park tennis courts are used “quite a lot.” So he took exception in particular to what he sees as the pickleballers’ sense of entitlement. “It seems like they want to take over what’s not theirs,” he said. “To me it’s pretty arrogant to say ‘We’re just going to take over stuff.’ Let them fundraise for a pickleball court.”

Pauline Engels concurred. “I take offense,” she said. “I have two grandchildren who use those courts. It’s a shame you come into town like this. We’ve got good tennis teams because they started out playing at Chesterton Park.”

Also in favor of the status quo: Nicole Wood, whose son similarly plays on the CHS team. “The current system works great,” she said, and converting one of the tennis courts into a permanent, dedicated pickleball court would be “getting rid of flexibility.”

Pickleballer David Wells, however, maintained that the Chesterton Park tennis courts are rarely used. “We were taking down our pickleball nets after every time we played,” he told the Park Board. “And then halfway through the summer we decided to leave them up and they were never moved. So we know nobody’s been playing tennis there.”

Pickleballer Bill Laster denied having any interest in monopolizing the Chesterton Park tennis courts. “We’re not trying to do a total takeover,” he said. “We’d like to take one of the two courts. There’s a beautiful new tennis court built by the Park Department on the other side of Ind. 49.”

Laster added that the Duneland pickleball community does intend to do some fundraising, but it’ll have to wait until the spring. “We are going to try to fundraise,” he said, “but that takes a little time to organize. And a lot of us are snowbirds and we’ll be heading out of town for winter soon.”

The Park Board took all comments under advisement but showed no interest on Wednesday in acting on the pickleballers’ petition. President Candy Tucker did instruct the pickleballers to remove at once from the chain-link fence around the tennis courts a piece of orange snow fencing--apparently used to contain errant pickleballs--which someone had fixed to the chain-link fence without Park Department authorization.

Coffee Creek Park

Bob Cohn opened the meeting on Wednesday by expressing his gratitude to the many volunteers who worked at Coffee Creek Park during the recent Rebuilding Together Duneland event.

“A shout-out to all the people who came out and made Coffee Creek Park so beautiful,” he said. “We had 50 or so folks there, many of them younger. That kind of community involvement is something that really makes Chesterton the place to live.”

“I recommend everybody drive down there and see how different it looks now,” Member Mark Dickinson said. “It’s really beautiful.”



Posted 10/9/2020




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