The governments of Wilkes County, Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro should do more to meet certain outdoor recreation needs.
For example, it’s apparent that public facilities for racquet sports – namely tennis and pickleball - are sorely lacking locally.
The Wilkesboro Parks and Recreation Board’s March 30 decision to require that tennis players share Cub Creek Park’s two tennis courts with pickleball players and the Wilkesboro Town Council’s decision to fund what was needed to make them dual purpose courts in the 2020-21 budget illuminated this problem.
These actions, intended to alleviate congestion on two pickleball courts already in the park, were taken without adequately first looking into the situation.
As a result, local tennis players justly felt imposed upon and friction developed between them and pickleball players.
Thirteen people spoke against and three spoke for striping Cub creek Park’s two tennis courts for the additional use of pickleball during the Wilkesboro Parks and Recreation Board’s meeting on Aug. 10.
Instead of voting to reverse the March 30 decision, the board voted to table the matter without saying when it might be brought up again.
Town Manager Ken Noland said during the meeting that the town council didn’t want to touch the issue, so the parks and recreation board needed to address the issue.
This didn’t say much about the people elected to govern in Wilkesboro because issues like the tennis-pickleball dilemma are largely what local government is about.
Local tennis players have publicly and privately stated that the two tennis courts at Wilkesboro’s Cub Creek Park are the only public tennis courts in Wilkes in reasonably good condition.
They say the four tennis courts at the Town of North Wilkesboro’s Memorial Park are in great need of maintenance work, but tennis players still use them.
Tennis courts at Wilkes Community College are in even worse shape and entrances to them currently are padlocked.
The tennis courts at North Wilkesboro’s Smoot Park fell into a state of disrepair and ceased being used by tennis players. Rather than invest in improvements to make them usable for tennis, the town installed basketball goals on the courts.
The outdoor basketball courts at Smoot and Cub Creek parks are utilized well, but reclaiming one or two of the courts at Smoot Park for tennis would help meet other needs without sacrificing very much. Basketball courts at Cub Creek formerly were tennis courts.
It’s clear that more courts are also needed for pickleball, which has rapidly grown in popularity in recent years. Good suggestions were made for establishing more pickleball courts in the park, but not on the tennis courts, at the parks and recreation board meeting Monday night.
Considering that a pickleball court is only about a third the size of a tennis court, the Town of Wilkesboro should be able to establish more pickleball courts without making it even harder to find a place to play tennis locally.
This situation also reflects the need for town and county governments to work together more to address local recreational needs, including by sharing the costs of building and maintaining facilities such as tennis and pickleball courts.
Elected town and county government officials talk about wanting to encourage people to move to Wilkes County and discourage current residents, especially young people, from moving away.
Courts for racquet sports and other recreational facilities are essential for achieving these goals. They’re also important for health.
The tennis-pickleball dilemma is an example of how government officials in Wilkes too often talk but don’t act.
In this case, they also created division in the community.