Improvements to Beacon Hill Park pickleball court have accessibility advocates concerned
The pickleball courts that are part of a City of Victoria pilot project in Beacon Hill Park were the only sanctioned courts in the city to receive an upgrade on Wednesday.
Makeshift courts in a parking lot off Arbutus Way near Goodacre Lake were closed as workers prepared the courts for new nets and repainted old parking lines.
The city launched the project earlier this year after banning pickleball in James Bay’s Todd Park after neighbors complained it was too loud.
This decision caused an outcry from the players, and they protested outside City Hall by setting up pickleball nets and playing until they could meet councilors or city staff.
The parking lot at Beacon Hill Park was seen by some as an ideal location for a new courthouse as it has remained vacant since the park was closed to vehicular traffic at the start of the pandemic and is located away from residential areas .
Others, however, are embittered at the thought of using the parking lot as whatever it was built for.
Susan Simmons, president of the MS Wellness Centre, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 30 years ago and represents people like her who struggle with accessibility.
The Accessibility Group has taken the Beacon Hill Park traffic closure to the Office of the BC Human Rights Commissioner, and the group is concerned about the work currently taking place in the parking lot.
“Tome [it’s] one step closer to having pickleball courts permanent here,” Simmons said after reviewing recent work in the old parking lot.
“We have a human rights case that we’ve taken to the human rights commission, we’re waiting to hear from them, and the city is benefiting,” she said.
Accessibility advocate Susan Simmons is pictured on the pickleball courts at Beacon Hill Park. (CTV News)
Simmons says available parking near the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm doesn’t allow people with accessibility issues to reach what she calls the heart and soul of the park.
“This gives us access to the park where the kids go, you can go there with your kids or grandkids, it gives us access to a flat surface where we can practice, gives us access to the bandstand, Goodacre Lake and gardens,” she says.
In a statement released Wednesday, the City of Victoria said the work would make the courts as safe and sustainable as any other municipal infrastructure, including temporary facilities.
The release also says the new nets are part of the temporary court setup and will be removed when this temporary arrangement ends.
Simmons said there is no date yet for the human rights hearing.
The City of Victoria plans to build at least six pickleball courts at Topaz Park during its next phase of park improvements. The hope is that construction will begin in 2023 after the design of the project is completed.