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Pickleball advocates petition for Nottoway Park tennis courts to be converted

Two of the six tennis courts at Nottoway Park in Oakton (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

A grassroots advocacy group of local pickleball players is taking its campaign urging Fairfax County to provide more facilities to a new, more public level.

The Fairfax County Advocates for Pickleball sent a petition last Thursday (Aug. 3) to the Board of Supervisors and Fairfax County Park Authority calling for two of the six existing tennis courts at Nottoway Park in Oakton to be converted into pickleball-only courts.

Located at 9537 Courthouse Road just outside the Town of Vienna border, the 84-acre park’s size and location would make it ideal for multiple, dedicated pickleball courts, the organization argued.

“It’s somewhat centrally located within Providence, which allows for easy access by more citizens,” Peter Montanino, one of the group’s Providence District members, told FFXnow. “Additionally, there’s plenty of room at Nottoway Park, which allows for pickleball courts and not bother neighbors with noise because that seems to be an argument that a lot of neighbors have.”

The petition was signed by 1,425 people, more than 1,300 of them confirmed to be Fairfax County residents. The largest number of signatories came from Vienna or Fairfax, but some were from as far away as Herndon, Alexandria and even Woodbridge.

With pickleball ranking as the fastest-growing sport in the U.S., dedicated courts at Nottoway would relieve some of the pressure on facilities in Vienna and Fairfax City, whose courts at the Green Acres Senior Center routinely draw over 30 people at a time in the mornings and 20 to 30 people at night, according to the petition.

In February, the Town of Vienna reduced pickleball hours at its Glyndon Park courts after nearby residents took issue with the noise. With the town council’s support, Mayor Linda Colbert wrote a letter to the Board of Supervisors in June asking the county to consider adding more pickleball facilities.

Since conducting a study of its pickleball facility needs in 2020, Fairfax County has expanded its roster by 48 courts for a total of 76 courts, including the completion of two courts at Cunningham Park in Vienna just this month, according to the park authority.

Another 10 courts are currently being developed, and eight more are planned for this fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2024, though Nottoway Park isn’t on that list, FCPA spokesperson Benjamin Boxer told FFXnow.

“This represents the most rapid expansion of pickleball facilities in the region,” Boxer said. “This work follows the outcome of a comprehensive pickleball study conducted in 2020 in response to an overwhelming demand for more facilities.”

Right now, though, the only site with more than two pickleball-only courts is the George Washington Rec Center in Mount Vernon, per the FCPA’s new park amenity locator.

The advocacy group argues that at least four pickleball courts are needed at one location for a facility to successfully support open play, where players can show up and join a game without scheduling one beforehand.

“Players look for multiple courts as there is a greater chance of having multiple players,” the petition said. “…Scattering two pickleball courts around the county in various parks will not be effective. Pickleball players want to switch up playing with many players in order improve their skills.”

Montanino noted that the availability of courts can be further limited by reservations for classes or private rentals, including programs offered by the park authority.

While the petition asserts that the Nottoway tennis courts aren’t operating at full capacity, the FCPA says they’re among “the most popular and well-used tennis facilities in the county,” and the vendor permit system for private lessons was implemented “in response to a strong community desire for tennis facilities and programming at this location.”

“The funds collected from those permits do provide a valued revenue stream used to maintain court facilities and develop additional amenities within the park system to serve community interests,” Boxer said.

The petition also argues for more pickleball courts as an equity issue, given the sport’s appeal to seniors. About 654 of the petition’s signers are 55 or older.

“Fairfax County needs to recognize that there is an aging population that they’re under-serving at this point, because they’re not offering opportunities for people over 55 to play a sport that’s easier for them than tennis,” Montanino said. “I can tell you, we have people that are well in their 80s that play with us, and we have people that are as young as 17 and 18. But how many 80-plus year olds are still out there playing basketball or playing baseball or playing soccer or tennis? But they can get out there and play pickleball.”

However, the park authority says the push for more pickleball facilities has shifted resources away from other in-demand amenities, such as basketball and futsal courts.

In a statement, Boxer said the agency welcomes community feedback and engagement, and remains committed to expanding the availability of pickleball facilities, but it needs to consider a variety of factors when determining how to allocate limited resources.

“Funding for all courts comes from the same pot of money,” he said. “With limited resources available, it is vital that we work to strike a balance in serving the diverse needs and interests of our countywide community…We are also open to working with community groups…on mutually beneficial solutions to undertake as resources allow.”

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