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Milford pickleballers are at conflict with the city over the winter court closure.

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By Jacob Jackson

MILFORD: The city of MILFORD has decided to close its pickleball courts during the winter, which has upset some of its passionate players.

On Thursday, workers from the Public Works Department removed the nets from most of the city’s courts and will complete the task in a few days. The courts usually close in the winter in Milford, but they stayed open throughout the year from 2020, when the pandemic started, to offer people a healthy pastime.

Recreation Department Director Bill Garfield decided to resume the season closure because of court equipment damage, damage to the tennis net posts and cranks and the courts from players using their own nets and removing ice and snow. Someone putting their own net on a court wrongly and causing “minor damage” at one court also affected the decision, Garfield said.

It is preventative maintenance and (pickleball) is off season,” Garfield said on Thursday. He added that the department was attempting to get the work done before it snows.

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He said that everything has its own season. Football, the Board of Education, and pickleball are some examples.

The outdoor season has ended, but you can play pickleball indoors at the West Shore Recreation Center on weekdays. The seasonal fee ranges from $40 to $100 and the season lasts until March.

Felicia Shashinka, a resident, expressed that many residents are unhappy with the reintroduction of the rule. She and resident Bill Wasilewski founded the Milford Pickleball Association in 2019, a group of 450 players from the city who pay $25 to the city to play at Eisenhower Park on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.

Across five locations – Anderson Avenue Playground, Eisenhower, Fowler Field, Point Beach Field and West Shore Recreation Center – Milford offers 24 pickleball courts, some of which are also tennis courts with pickleball markings. The city’s reasoning did not impress Wasilewski.

Courts always wear down, he said.

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If you close the courts all the time, nothing will ever wear,” he said. He added that players are dedicated to the game.

I mean this in the most affable way: the people who play pickleball have an addiction to the sport,” he said. “The only way to cope with this addiction is to play. The season is 12 months a year, whether permitting.

On Tuesday, Wasilewski and Alderman Paul Healy had a meeting with Garfield to prevent the courts from closing. However, he said that they did not reach a clear outcome.

As a Park and Beach Commission member for the city and the deputy director of operations of the New Haven Parks and Recreation Department, Shashinka said that she understood the situation from both perspectives.

I am very disappointed,” Shashinka said. “There aren’t a lot of things to do come winter. As long as the weather stays OK, I feel bad that this gets taken away.

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She said that the courts would remain open during the winter, according to New Haven officials.

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According to Garfield, cracks in court surfaces could result from shoveling or ice-breaking.

At the commission’s following meeting on Jan. 3, Shashinka plans to raise the matter. She is of the view that the courts would be shielded from the most serious damage, cracks, if “No shoveling” signs were displayed.

“I think signage goes a long way,” she said. “I have put those signs up there myself in Eisenhower when I came in there because I didn’t want the courts damaged, and it worked.”

According to her, pickleball players tend to be more mature and capable of handling some responsibility.

On March 15, the outdoor pickleball season will recommence, Garfield said.

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