Township officials, residents discuss pickleball dilemma at Lions Den Park

A group of Erlton North residents raised concerns about noise and traffic stemming from the pickleball courts at Lions Den during Tuesday’s council meeting.

Township officials are in search of a solution regarding a debate between local pickleball players and residents of the Erlton North neighborhood.

For nearly one hour at Tuesday’s Cherry Hill Township Council meeting, a group of about 10 residents from Erlton North voiced their complaints to township officials about the pickleball courts located at Lions Den Park on New York Avenue.

The two main complaints involved increased noise and traffic. Resident Frank McGee brought a recording of the noise coming from the courts to the meeting. McGee said his house is within 195 feet of the courts and claimed the noise coming from the courts was between 60 to 80 decibels, disrupting him and his neighbors.

Tina Brizzi, a resident of nearby Maine Avenue, said the neighborhood always has had a problem with speeding and described backing out of her driveway was like “Russian roulette.” She said the traffic became even worse when the pickleball courts were installed.

“You’re adding more traffic into an already dangerous situation with all of the pickleballers.” Brizzi said. “That’s wonderful for them, I’m happy to see my tax dollars at work, but you know what? It’s dangerous.”

A day after the council meeting, Cherry Hill resident Denise Donald, a local ambassador for the USA Pickleball Association, disputed the claims residents made, especially regarding noise, saying most pickleball paddles do not register 60 to 80 decibels. Donald added the courts were built after she received the support of 250 local residents who wanted pickleball-specific courts constructed signed a letter.

Residents at the meeting complained about the number of South Jersey Pickleball social meet-ups taking place at the courts, saying there could be as many as 30 to 40 people playing at one time.

Resident Denise Prudente said the surrounding streets are constantly filled with parked cars because of the large number of pickleball players.

“There’s, at any given time, 20 cars, 20 to 30 cars sometimes parked there playing pickleball, because they start on one court and they move over,” Prudente said.

Donald said the meet-ups aren’t just confined to Lions Den and are also held at other courts around the township and in surrounding towns such as Pennsauken and Hainesport. The group also plans to host meetups at Cherry Hill’s DeCou Park, where six pickleball courts are expected to open within the next month. Donald also added that numerous people not affiliated with South Jersey Pickleball also use the courts on a regular basis.

“(Pickleball is) a very social sport,” Donald said. “(The players) are socializing as well as getting exercise.”

The township installed pickleball courts at Lions Den Park two years ago. The courts were the first to be dedicated solely to pickleball in Cherry Hill. A $25,000 Camden County Recreation Facility Enhancement Projects grant was used to fund the project.

At the meeting, Mayor Chuck Cahn discussed why the pickleball courts were installed. He noted the former basketball courts located at the current pickleball court site were a problem, with the township receiving reports of vandalism, drinking and foul language. About three years ago, the township wanted to make better use of the site and decided to change those courts to pickleball since there was interest in the sport.

“At the time, quite frankly, I don’t think the township knew how well used those pickleball courts were going to be,” Cahn said.

Cahn said the use of the courts couldn’t be restricted to residents only since public funds were used to construct them. However, he did propose a few solutions to the issue. One idea was to put a board fence around the pickleball courts to reduce the impact of the noise. Cahn also offered to work with the pickleball players and have them play more often at other courts around the township.

“Besides the six new ones at DeCou, we’ve also painted some of our tennis courts that were being not as used heavily … Johnson, Carusi, Kilmer and Point of Woods, to encourage some of the play elsewhere,” Cahn said.

Toward the end of the meeting, Prudente suggested the township take down the nets at two of the three Lions Den courts once the DeCou courts open. Cahn said the township could look at trying that out this summer.

Donald said the pickleball players have been open to making compromises. She said the group can limit the number of people attending social meet-ups and has already agreed to not start play before 10 a.m.

“We made concessions to the neighbors from the very beginning,” Donald said.

Donald added the group has reached out to the neighbors to come and play with the group, but none have taken her up on the offer.

After hearing about what was said at last Tuesday’s meeting, Donald said she hopes Cherry Hill’s pickleball players will be able to meet with Cahn and township officials soon to present their thoughts.

“We would like to set up a meeting to have our voice heard,” Donald said. “The local players for Lions Den would also like to have a meeting to have their voices heard.”

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