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Reston Association board defers decision on addition of pickleball at Barton Hill

Reston Association has scaled back its plan for pickleball at Barton Hill (via RA)

Reston Association’s Board of Directors deferred a decision last week on how to handle the planned addition of pickleball at Barton Hill’s tennis courts to Jan. 25.

The decision on Thursday (Dec. 14) comes as the organization grapples with community concerns about noise from the new courts and enthusiasm from pickleball players seeking more locations to play the burgeoning sport.

The association is choosing between two designs for the project: six dedicated pickleball courts with four courts that have blended lines on the existing tennis courts at 1901 Barton Hill Road or four dedicated pickleball courts with no blended lines on the existing courts.

RA plans to install Acoustifence — noise blocking material — to manage sound in the area, adding $75,000 to the initial price tag of $770,000.

With the assistance of consultant Kimley-Horn, RA completed two sound studies in July and November. The latest study found that noise from pickleball play is below Fairfax County’s noise ordinance for continuous sound — sound that is constant throughout observation — and 100 decibels for impulse sound — single or multiple sounds characterized by a sudden rise in noise.

“I’m not going to sit here and tell any neighbor that what they’re hearing is not valid or isn’t reality,” Aaron Heustess, a senior civil engineer with Kimley-Horn, said. “All I can do is point back to the data, which says if you look at the meter and you watch what’s happening, it’s not impacting the noise.”

According to Heustess, most of the studied sound was dominated by traffic noise.

Board director Laurie Dodd noted that the county’s noise ordinance is designed more for average noise levels, rather than impulse noise levels.

Heustess also pointed out that the sound produced from a pickleball whacking a racket is significantly shorter than other sounds and has “low energy from an overall average standpoint.”

“The impulsive nature of pickleball noise does not drive the average noise level for that particular use,” he said.

He also noted that the county’s noise ordinance has an exception for recreational uses between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

The bottom line, Heustess concurred with director Irwin Flashman, was to “keep it as far away from people as you possibly can.”

Meanwhile, RA’s community survey found that 15% of its members played pickleball within the last year, and 12% of members would’ve played in the last month but were limited by the availability of courts. Others said they were concerned about overcrowded courts and limited hours.

If approved, scheduling for the Barton Hill pickleball courts and the soccer field would be staggered to address concerns about parking needs. There are currently 28 existing parking spots at the courts, including ones across the road at the soccer field.

In a separate matter, RA worked with community members to draft a memo asking the Virginia Department of Transportation to consider installing a crosswalk on Barton Hill Road.

Further engineering and study is necessary before a permit application is submitted.

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