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Pop pop pop: pickleball on Cape Cod serves joy and frustration

Courtesy Pexels
Photo by Mason Tuttle
Courtesy Pexels

Towns throughout Cape Cod are trying to balance the popularity of pickleball with noise complaints from residents who live close to where it's played.

Last month, Falmouth officials moved to paint over pickleball lines at the Swift Park and Lawrence School public courts.

Town officials cited noise complaints from nearby residents as a reason behind the move at a Rec Committee meeting last week.

In response, the Falmouth Pickleball Association has launched an online petition to keep the courts in West Falmouth open for play until the Town builds new facilities.

Next month's town meeting warrant has a citizen petition to fund $2.6 million for new pickleball courts at Trotting Park.

Vivian Trotz is a 93-year-old pickleball player. She said the sport is multi-generational and is important for the Cape’s older population.

"Those people who don’t get out very much and are isolated, don’t have too many friends. It’s a way to meet people. And physically, it’s an absolute boon because it’s the only real exercise many people have.”

Trotz supports keeping Swift Park open but acknowledged sound from the game affects neighbors.

“Pickleballers understand that. We’re not denying there is a problem. Not at all, but we want to see if we can resolve it until Trotting Park is completed."

John Churchill lives by the courts at the Lawrence school, which were closed after neighbors filed an injunction.

“Just pop, pop, pop. It’s non-stop. So for two years it took away our quality of life."

Churchill said that one of his neighbors even moved out of the neighborhood.

“I could hear the noise inside my house with the tv on and the windows closed. I even got to where I was I was wearing sound-cancelling headphones just to block out the noise.”

Neighbors took to litigation to get the Lawrence court closed. The Town and the plaintiffs are now negotiating a settlement.

The Falmouth Select Board will discuss best practices for mitigating pickleball noise complaints at the Monday October 16 select board meeting, which starts at 6:30pm.

Falmouth’s Town Manager is expected to give an update on the decision to paint over the courts at the meeting.

Falmouth is not the only town on Cape Cod facing this issue. Provincetown also saw neighbors complain about the sport's noise.

Mashpee has suspended play at their public pickleball courts on Sundays over a noise complaint.

Chilmark officials are considering a ban on courts being built within 250 feet of a home.

Brian Engles is an author, a Cape Cod local, and a producer for Morning Edition.

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