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Bergen 'in a pickle' over new courts at Overpeck

Bergen ‘in a pickle’ over new courts at Overpeck

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Pickleball advocates Iris Borman and Norm Levy talk about the decision of the Bergen County Park Department to put tile surfaces on Pickleball courts.
Mitsutaro Yasukawa, Photo Journalist, @MitsuYasukawa

Pickleball advocates Norm Levy of Fort Lee and Iris Borman of Cliffside Park (foreground) play Pickleball together on a concrete surface at Overpeck Park in Ridgefield Park on 05/15/18. (Photo: Mitsu Yasukawa/Northjersey.com)

RIDGEFIELD PARK — If you build it, we won’t come. 

That’s what Pickleball players are saying about Bergen County’s long-awaited plan to create six courts at Overpeck Park using a synthetic tile surface to replace the cracking asphalt.  

Pickleballers say that if the new surface is installed, it will be a disaster. Synthetic tiles tend to trap dirt and debris on the edges and are anything but smooth, which makes them rough on the knees and joints. The tile surface doesn’t provide a true bounce because it tends to sag, and is not recommended by the sport’s governing body, the USA Pickleball Association

“We could twist an ankle or fall flat on our face,” said Iris Borman, a Cliffside Park resident who plays Pickleball three times a week in Bergen County. “For years, we’ve been asking the county to provide us with these courts, but they didn’t even consult us before they chose to install tiles, which is absolutely the wrong kind of surface.” 

Close up photo of tile surface on a Pickleball court.  (Photo: Mitsu Yasukawa/Northjersey.com)

On the opposite side of the net are Bergen County officials, who claim that the synthetic tiles are safer and meet the USA Pickleball guidelines.

But Bergen County spokeswoman Alicia D’Allesandro, said the decision to go with tile was made in light of budgetary considerations and was the most responsible choice. 

“The county Parks Department received suggestions and input from the pickleball enthusiasts,” she said. “As with any project, we investigated available options and worked to make the most responsible choice, taking into consideration budget and the ne and safety of our constituents.”  

Pickleball advocates Iris Borman of Cliffside Park and Norm Levy of Fort Lee (foreground) play Pickleball together on a concrete surface at Overpeck Park in Ridgefield Park on 05/15/18.  (Photo: Mitsu Yasukawa/Northjersey.com)

Borman and Norman Levy, another frequent Pickleball player from Fort Lee, said they’ve sent emails to the Parks Department and county executive Jim Tedesco. The New Jersey Pickleball Association and the USA Pickleball Association have joined in, urging Bergen County to drop the tiles, which are considered more cost-effective. 

Now they plan to go back before the freeholder board on Wednesday night. 

“It’s arrogance,” Borman said. “It’s a complete disregard for the people who elected them.

Levy says tiles provide for an uneven surface

“With these tiles, you can’t discern the highs or the lows on the court,” said Norman Levy, a Fort Lee resident. “It all looks level. But it isn’t.” 

Bergen County is the only county in New Jersey where there are no public pickleball courts. In January, Borman and a group of pickleballers convinced the Bergen County freeholders to change that, and the parks department came up with a plan to convert three tennis courts in Overpeck Park into six pickleball courts.

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The county subsequently awarded a $109,439 contract to Marturano Recreation of Sea Girt to make the conversion. The county has announced a completion date of June 1, although as of Tuesday, none of the work had been started. 

Freeholder Steve Tanelli said the county “heard the public’s voice” and moved to create the new pickleball courts.  

In a prepared statement announcing that the project would be completed by June 1, Bergen County Parks director Jim Koth said the new surface “dramatically reduces the impact of lunging and jumping on players’ bodies, lessening the risk of injury.”

Marturano Recreation did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

The USA Pickleball Association says that interlocking tiles were “not optimal for quality pickleball  play” and that participants were likely to take their paddles elsewhere.  

“While pickleball players across the country have grown accustomed to playing on a variety of surfaces with an increasing number of locations, they are now able to be a little more selective and will be less inclined to play on a court with a less than optimal surface,” said Christine Barksdale, managing director of Competition and Athlete Programs for the USA Pickleball Association.

Borman said if tiles are installed, there’s no chance Bergen County could ever hold a tournament because the courts don’t meet USA Pickleball guidelines for competitive play. Levy believes many pickleballers won’t want to play on them. 

What is pickleball?

Pickleball, a combination of tennis and ping-pong that is played on badminton-size court, is a fast-growing sport among Baby Boomers. It started in 1965 as a backyard game in Bainbridge Island, Washington, but has enjoyed steady growth and there are now over 6,000 courts in the United States. 

 

 

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