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Editorial: It’s not a skatepark, but we’ve got tennis and pickleball courts

This year, for first time in nearly two decades, the tennis courts at Petaluma’s Lucchesi Park will have fresh surfaces.

There will be pickleball courts, too.

And the refurbishing trend will bring new surfaces to tennis courts at Del Oro Park and McNear Park. Count ‘em up – that’s seven total tennis courts resurfaced, and one new pickleball court.

Cost: $440,000.

Source: Sonoma County Measure M funds, a dedicated sales tax meant for parks countywide that voters passed in November 2018.

Impact: “This is a huge win for our hard court sports facilities,” said Parks Deputy Director Drew Halter, who added the facilities have been in disrepair for a decade.

Controversy: It ain’t a skate park.

Neither is the impending baseball diamond at the Petaluma Community Sports Fields, a roughly $5 million project that’s part of a long-planned sports complex and paid for through accumulated impact fees.

But we’ll put that aside for now. As has already been mentioned in the preceding paragraphs, new and better recreational facilities cost money. They also take time.

We’re excited to see Petaluma, which has been largely starved of stable funding since the Great Recession, making progress on major projects that promise to entertain thousands of Petalumans in the years to come.

Outdoor spaces, including tennis courts and pickleball courts, were oases in the depths of the coronavirus pandemic, which prohibited during long stretches much of the gathering typically associated with civic life.

And we’re hopeful the pandemic has taught us not only the importance of investing in public spaces, but reveling in those spaces as well.

In a recent phone call with the Argus-Courier, Halter said he has seen an uptick in requests for classes and activities in Petaluma’s parks. This coming weekend, Henry Kaku and other area martial arts instructors will host a free self-defense class for Asian business owners at Walnut Park, for example.

“People are getting creative with how we maximize our outdoor spaces,” Halter said. “We’ll have to take a close look at more outdoor spaces…It’s an immediate need, and one that isn’t going to go away.”

We were pleased to hear that kind of strategic thinking from Halter, whose department has been criticized for its lack of a master plan. Residents who have banded together to push for a second skatepark have recently turned their attention to a push for a robust study of the parks department’s approach to funding and recreational facilities. They’ve brought up concerns with transparency, equity and representation.

They have support from some Petaluma City Council member, as well, so it’s likely something will get done on that front.

For our part, we encourage parks officials – and the parks commission – to engage in thoughtful work to chart the future of Petaluma’s parks and open spaces in a way that serves all Petalumans.

But let’s also not lose sight of the fact that the parks department is already serving many – and will serve many more in the coming months when the tennis courts, pickleball courts and baseball field are complete. That’s not nothing.

Kudos to Petaluma Parks for the work to date to give Petalumans places to play. We’ll give a hearty cheer to the new projects coming online this year, and we eagerly await what comes next.

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