Annandale residents question county’s plan to remove Kendale Woods pickleball courts

Kendale Woods Park’s racquetball courts are currently striped so they can be used by both tennis and pickleball players (courtesy Fairfax County Park Authority)

News that the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) will eliminate the Kendale Woods Park pickleball courts came as a complete surprise to Sarah Wysocki.

An Annandale resident whose house backs up to the park, Wysocki says she and other neighbors first learned about the plan to renovate the courts in June from Annandale Today, which shared the FCPA’s announcement on May 3.

The noise and parking challenges cited by the park authority don’t reflect Wysocki’s experiences as a resident and pickleball player, she told FFXnow. The group she plays with every Friday afternoon has never encountered any issues, including with noise complaints or conflicts with tennis players, she says.

“It’s a valuable asset to our community and to our neighborhood because it’s so specific to where we live…that you can’t go somewhere else and replicate that,” Wysocki said. “For the people who live there, it’s important.”

Wysocki isn’t alone in her disappointment at the prospect of losing pickleball at Kendale Woods, which has had two racquetball courts lined for both tennis and pickleball since 2020. The facility was re-lined and re-surfaced to accommodate movable pickleball nets in 2022.

An online petition that Wysocki started last Friday (May 10) in a bid to preserve the pickleball courts has almost 400 signatures, as of this writing, though it’s unclear how many supporters live in the neighborhood. One commenter said they recently played pickleball at the park with their daughter and grandson, while another said the courts have helped “build a community and friendships.”

FOX5 reporter Chad Ricardo said in a May 3 story that the overall sentiment from residents he interviewed was that, though they can hear noise from pickleball games, they “will be sad to see the courts go.”

Wysocki says Kendale Woods is a valuable location because it’s within walking distance and adjacent to the neighborhood pool run by the Broyhill Crest Recreation Club (BCRC), so players can hit the courts while their kids go for a swim.

“Yeah, we could drive five miles, but most people walk there. It’s only two courts, so it’s not like tons of people are coming and playing,” she said, noting that the courts aren’t used at night since they don’t have lights. “It’s very much a neighborhood and community court.”

Courts fall short of pickleball standards, FCPA says

The park authority maintains that Kendale Woods misses its standards for pickleball courts, as established by a pickleball study report published in December 2021. Since then, the FCPA has almost tripled its pickleball facilities from 28 to 82 courts, including 16 dedicated to the popular sport.

Recommending a focus on developing pickleball-only facilities, rather than dual-use courts, staff presented its internal guidelines to the park authority board on Feb. 28. The site criteria includes a distance of 200 to 250 feet between pickleball sites and residences, depending on whether there’s a “treed buffer or significant change in topography.”

The Kendale Woods courts are 47 feet from the closest home, according to FCPA spokesperson Benjamin Boxer. After publishing the pickleball study, the park authority opted to wait and see if its existing facilities within the 250-foot range generated any noise complaints.

“The Park Authority received its first complaint [about Kendale Woods] the same year we resurfaced and re-lined the courts in 2022,” Boxer said. “After that, the courts became a popular pickleball destination and verified noise complaints continued from within the new pickleball site selection criteria distance.”

Kendale Woods Park also has no parking lot, conflicting with the study’s recommendation that pickleball courts have one parking space per player.

However, players can utilize the Broyhill Crest pool’s parking lot, which is also open to tennis players and other park visitors, BCRC President Beverly Schlotterbeck says, questioning why the county sees the lack of dedicated parking as an issue for pickleball players but not tennis players.

“We are disappointed at the Park Authority’s decision to remove the pickleball courts from Kendale Woods Park for reasons, we believe, that are weak at best and suspect at worse,” Schlotterbeck said. “Some of our members are pickleball enthusiasts and we support them in their efforts to keep the courts available for both pickleball and tennis.”

She added that the club board intends to make its opposition known to Mason District Supervisor Andres Jimenez and Park Authority Board representative Ron Kendall, who represent Annandale.

Public hearing requested

According to Boxer, the FCPA didn’t solicit public feedback on its Kendale Woods plan, because the park “falls well within the identified distance for pickleball.” It has heard support for the courts from “many within the community” but couldn’t ignore the “multiple” complaints it received, including ones from residents within 250 feet of the courts.

He stressed that the “decision to make this change was not taken lightly or without regard for the impact it would have.”

“We acknowledge that some may feel inconvenienced to travel a slightly further distance to another pickleball location,” Boxer said. “However, we cannot justify infringing on present and future homeowners’ quality of life when other, more appropriately located amenities exist and will soon be developed to support pickleball.”

The park authority has 16 pickleball courts within five miles of Kendale Woods, and it’s planning to add dedicated courts at Mason District Park (6621 Columbia Pike) in 2025. Boxer confirmed that project is separate from a recently announced tennis court refurbishment that will start on June 12.

Wysocki remains skeptical about the source of the noise complaints, but she urged the park authority to at least hold a community meeting or public hearing so all residents can share their opinions.

“My backyard is a pickleball court, and…I talked to my neighbors, I know the neighbors, it’s not neighbors who complained,” she said. “…Let us share our voice, and if it turns out that we’re wrong and there really are these hidden people that are complaining then, okay, but that’s not the case.”