BI Parks addressing lack of courts

Pickleball and tennis players are still trying to work things out with the parks district regarding the lack of courts.

At the last Bainbridge Island Metro Parks & Recreation District meeting there were a number of public comments on the topic.

Susan Oblak said she thinks tennis players are being forgotten. And it’s still a popular sport, which is evident since there is a waiting list to become a member of the tennis club at the BI Recreation Center. She said there needs to be dialogue with pickleball players because they both want the same thing — access to courts.

Kathleen Dassel said there needs to be forums with pickleball and tennis players so they can discuss mutual problems. She suggested online signups for courts.

Edith Cobourn agreed they all need to work together. She said the Bainbridge Community Tennis Association would help with maintenance. She also said Battle Point Park is the best place for courts because they dry faster there.

It was mentioned that the district plans to spend $200,000 to build a court at Strawberry Hill Park. But tennis fans said that is not an ideal location because of debris from trees. Some commissioners said that a location for a tennis court has not been finalized yet.

Loanne Harmeling said four public tennis courts on BI are not enough. She said it’s an equity issue because some can’t afford to become members at BIRC. She also reminded everyone that Sakai Park is still undeveloped, and that is where some tennis courts were supposed to be built years ago.

She said the district needs to come up with a plan. She said tennis players have pledged $50,000 for courts, and they also want to apply for grants, but the district needs a plan before that can happen. She added that the park district’s levies are supported, but there still are no free public tennis courts for youth to play on.

Meanwhile, Administration Services director Amy Swenson gave a budget report. She predicted a $200,000 surplus for the year. One reason is the district thought it was getting a $200,000 state grant, and it ended up being $500,000.

Like everywhere else, BIRC has had issues hiring enough employees. But that has led to savings in payroll, benefits and services. Rentals also are doing well.

However, not all areas are under budget. Utilities are over budget, as is property insurance, vehicles and large equipment. She did say a big copy machine and exercise equipment are one-time expenses. Fuel and electric costs are up 40 percent.

Recreation Division director Mark Benishek said BIRC attendance is picking back up now that summer is over. He said enrollment for fall activities and classes is strong, with soccer at historic levels, even requiring a waiting list.

He also said an Open House Sept. 17 celebrated the one-year anniversary of the parks district owning BIRC.

Also, it was mentioned that some tree stands at both Moritani Preserve and Strawberry Hill Park will be thinned with the timber sold to a local mill to help offset the costs.