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Monday, June 5, 2023
Pickleball can be noisy, but neighbours say they enjoy living next to courts

Residents of Lamberts Walk, the small community bordering Virgil’s Centennial Sports Park, are not particularly supportive of a court case that has shut the park's pickleball courts – although some agree the sport is loud.

“I think it’s a bunch of bull—- from people who have nothing else to complain about,” Cathy Troke said from her Lamberts Walk bungalow on Tuesday.

The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake and the NOTL Pickleball Club are in the throes of a court proceeding with Lamberts Walk resident Oana Scafesi, who calls the sound of a plastic pickleball striking a racquet “torture.”

“For the last three years I have been tortured by a high noise produced by the pickleball players,” Scafesi testified in Welland court last Wednesday. Court was told her balcony is 62 feet from the pickleball courts.

Troke lives in one of the bungalows at the back of Lamberts Walk and said she can definitely appreciate that tenants of the apartments, such as Scafesi, are much closer to the court. But she doesn’t believe the issue should be fought in the courts.

Troke said overall she finds living in Lamberts Walk to be very quiet. “It’s almost too quiet for me,” the 77-year-old said.

“I miss the sound of the pickleball courts,” her husband Tom Troke said.

“I don’t think there’s any noise at all. I’ve lived in other places where just the sound of the traffic and daily life was worse than what that is,” he said.

“People need to exercise. What’s the difference?”

Resident Janet Brookes said pickleball is indeed a noisy activity.

“I try to tune them out. It is very noisy,” Brookes said outside her Lamberts Walk home on Tuesday.

She shared a sentiment with fellow resident Murray Turnberry, saying there is a noticeable difference in sound level depending on what equipment the players are using.

“There’s good bats and there’s bad bats,” she said.

Brookes has been living at Lamberts Walk since 2008 and said she and her husband just go and sit in the back or close the windows if the noise from the park is a distraction.

“I know the woman who's complaining. She’s a very nice lady and she’s within her rights.”

Turnberry, who lives closer to the courts than Scafesi does, said, “I guess the (noise of pickleball) affects one person more than most.”

He said choosing to live next to a sports park comes with the knowledge that there will be events and recreational activities going on.

“I chose to live next to a sports park recreational complex. People are going to use it and we should want people to use it,” he said.

But he also agreed it can be loud. “I think most of the issue is that they’re not using the ergonomic racquets.”

Turnberry said the benefits of the park outweigh any potential negatives for his family.

“If it bothers one person bad enough it’s unfortunate but for the sake of the kids and everyone else using the park … We have kids and our grandkids, they all use the park. We’d rather have them using the park than staying home and playing video games,” he said.

“It’s a give and take. You can’t fault people for getting outside and enjoying the recreational activities that a facility like that is for.”

Cathy Troke said she is surprised the town let the issue get to trial after Scafesi initiated her complaint a year ago.

She suggested the town should have helped find Scafesi another place to live instead of inconveniencing almost 300 pickleball players and spending taxpayer dollars fighting the charge.

“That, to me, is such a total waste of time and money,” Troke said.

It is an insignificant issue when compared with what people all over the world have been dealing with for the past few years, from the pandemic to the invasion of Ukraine.

The couple, who talked about their mobility impairments and health issues at their late age in life, say they get immense joy out of seeing the park used.

“Just to see people out doing things and enjoying themselves makes us really happy,” Cathy Troke said, noting she is an avid card player. 

“We’re both physically unable to do anything. We used to golf, we used to do a lot of things that we are now unable to do.”

“Now we envy those people. The last thing I would want is to make them stop because of the noise. Put headphones on. Put your TV up louder,” she said.

“Turn on some music,” her husband suggested.

Chris Doerwald, 27, lives in the same building as Scafesi and said he is unhappy the courts are closed.

“I’m just super frustrated by it,” Doerwald said in an interview.

He and his girlfriend started playing pickleball last fall “and we were having a good time. We were very much looking forward to playing it again as the weather got nicer now,” he said.

Doerwald said some of his neighbours in Lamberts Walk have an affinity for complaining about things.

“That’s all they do is just complain and that really bugs me too,” he said.

He said he has no interest in playing the sport inside the arena as the outdoor courts were one of the game's main draws for him and his girlfriend.

As to whether the sound of people playing pickleball is invasive or annoying, Doerwald was adamant. “Absolutely not,” he said, adding he only notices it if he is outside.

When his windows are closed, he hears no noise. “I don’t think I’ve ever noticed it inside my building.”

Turnberry and his wife “definitely don’t mind” the racket from the racquets, he said.

“There’s people who live by railway tracks, people who live by other activities — that’s where you choose to live. We’d rather have a facility like this that the kids can benefit from than something else,” he said.

But he still said there is room to respect the struggle Scafesi is facing.

“It’s unfortunate. I feel for her, but what do you do?”

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