Citizen effort yields new (pickleball) courts

Two years ago the tennis courts at Clear Creek Park in Richmond were a mess, an asphalt-buckled, weed-dotted eyesore.

Today, they are born anew, thanks to a citizen-led, two-year effort that raised money, coordinated private and public efforts and resulted in eight gleaming new pickleball courts.

They were opened Tuesday with much fanfare and the promise of continued use. Pickleball, for those of you who (like me) don’t know a thing about the game, combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis, and is played on a court similar in size to that of badminton. It started in Washington state in the 1960s and has exploded in popularity over the last 10 years.

It is a sport for all ages and all skill levels, but the point of this story is that those tennis courts, that barren piece of Clear Creek land, would not have the spit and shining achievement of new courts if it had not been for the efforts of a small but determined number of local citizens, led by Tom Dickman, Marc and Sue Miller and Pam and Greg Hilligoss.

“We just decided to do it,” Dickman said. “It was a real team effort. We decided to do something rather than wait for somebody else to do it.”

Dickman had the original idea for outdoor courts in Richmond (there are two indoor courts at the senior center) and went to park superintendent Denise Retz to inquire. Retz told him if he raised the money, the parks department would help make it happen. Dickman’s group went about the task of organizing, mobilizing, coordinating and communicating.

And now the courts are ready for use, for open play, while organizers plan pickleball demonstrations, lessons and tournaments. Fund-raising continues as the group develops a plan for maintenance of the courts.

It is a testament to citizens’ action, an example of how these things get done. These things don’t just happen. People make them happen.

The group raised $44,000 in local donations and got another $39,000 through a Patronicity grant from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority. They also received support from the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Tourism Bureau and in-kind donations of labor from the parks department, city engineer’s office and street department and Richmond Power & Light.

In the end the project expense totaled more than $100,000.

“It was a collaboration. That’s what made it happen,” Retz said.

It is another exciting addition at Clear Creek to go with the (relatively) new Dream (Basketball) Courts and new Sensory Park, all a testament to citizen involvement. If you haven’t been to Clear Creek lately you really should make the trip.

And bring your pickleball paddle and tennies.

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