Pittsfield City Council rejects funds for pickleball at Springside Park

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PITTSFIELD — Opponents of a proposed pickleball project at Springside Park have scored what appears to be a decisive win.

The City Council on Tuesday declined to allocate Community Preservation Act funds — the last remaining city funding source — for the project for the coming fiscal year.

Councilors voted 6-4 to cut the $35,272 earmarked for pickleball from the recommended community preservation budget, with councilors Chris Connell, Peter Marchetti, Melissa Mazzeo and Tony Simonelli in opposition. Ward 3 Councilor Nick Caccamo was absent from the meeting.

The council ultimately approved $540,648 in spending for 11 other projects, with the $35,000 in pickleball funds reverting back into the city's pool of community preservation funds.

The City Council previously voted last week to cut $52,500 reserved in the city's capital budget for the controversial pickleball project.Pickleball, a net game played on a tennis court with different markings, has become an increasingly popular sport, particularly among older adults. The game is much like tennis, but because of the lightweight equipment, it is easier on the joints and generally easier to learn.

The issue has galvanized the community in recent months, with pickleball fans making their case for a place to play, and opponents decrying the would-be encroachment upon the passive Springside Park.

Ward 1 Councilor Helen Moon said the pickleball facility flies in the face of existing plans for the park, and that can't be brushed aside.

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"You can't just poo-poo it," she said. "I think it goes against the fundamental basis of the master plan."

Councilors pushed Jim McGrath, the city's parks and natural resource program manager, to agree to drop the proposed Springside site so they could vote in favor of the spending. But McGrath said the city's Park Commission already approved the site, and he didn't have the authority to override that vote.

Plus, he said, "I think it's premature to drop Springside."

"I'm a professional park planner," he said, and master plans are built to be flexible.

Still, he said he would revisit the site selection process, promising councilors an open process.

In the end, the majority of councilors said too many of their constituents stood against the project at its chosen site, and so they voted with them.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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