Getty still option for pickleball court site


An outdoor pickleball court at the Providence Tennis Academy at Roger Williams Park. The town is proposing to build six courts at Fort Getty, which is roughly the size of three tennis courts.

An outdoor pickleball court at the Providence Tennis Academy at Roger Williams Park. The town is proposing to build six courts at Fort Getty, which is roughly the size of three tennis courts.

The prospect of constructing pickleball courts at Fort Getty is still alive.

The town council voted 3-2 at its meeting Monday to proceed with a grant application through the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. Vice President Mary Meagher and Councilmen Erik Brine and Mike White voted in favor of the plan; President Nancy Beye and Councilman Randy White dissented.

The project surfaced in October when the councilors unanimously approved a request by Ray DeFalco, director of parks and recreation, to apply for a grant to subsidize the courts at Fort Getty. Residents in opposition to the plan, however, voiced their concerns following that endorsement, citing apprehension about destroying the ecosystem and the potential noise generated from the sport.

Heeding those concerns, De- Falco recommended an alternative site near the soccer fields at the corner of Eldred Avenue and East Shore Road, and the councilors encouraged him to see if that was feasible. Restrictions on the deed would have to be loosened to allow for construction because when the state transferred ownership of the land to the town in 1994, it said “no development, construction or clearing of vegetation shall be permitted on the property apart from the field and parking lot.”

Seeking to amend the grant application to list Eldred as the pending site for the courts instead of Fort Getty, DeFalco was told the deed must be amended before the grant can be revised. Because that process would take “several months, if not longer,” the amended application with Eldred listed as the site likely would not be completed in time for this round of grants.

“Before we could amend the grant application, we would have to have a definite, approved location for the pickleball courts,” DeFalco said. “I don’t see there being enough time for us to do that.”

After Meagher suggested continuing with the grant process, Councilman Randy White suggested scrapping the plan because “I haven’t heard anybody say Eldred was a bad idea, but I did hear voices that said Getty was a bad idea.”

“The sentiment is that Getty is not a good place for pickleball courts,” he said.

Meagher disagreed.

“Actually, I don’t necessarily think that,” she said.

Although Meagher said Eldred was a better venue, she did not want to scrap the Getty plan because amending the deed for the soccer fields is not a done deal.

“We don’t know if we could put pickleball courts at Eldred, right?” she asked.

“We do not,” DeFalco replied.

Because of the opposition with Fort Getty, Randy White said if the town won the grant but decided not to move forward with the project, declining the money could damage the reputation of the town when applying for future grants. Beye, who said she wrote “so many” grants during the pandemic to support her business, agreed.

“I don’t feel comfortable going forward at this point in time,” she said.

Despite Beye and White’s objections, the process is moving forward. According to the grant, the 102-by-128-foot facility, with a parking lot, would be located in the wooded area south of the gatehouse. This facility would accommodate six pickleball courts without lights. An engineering firm gave an estimated cost of $300,000 to construct the facility. The DEM is awarding grants of up to $400,000 with a 20 percent match from the grantee, which can include in-kind services.