Pickleballers Clash With Denver Parks and Rec Over Shoveling Duties

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The Denver Parks and Recreation Department is warning pickleball players that they can be ticketed if they shovel snow from public courts. 

“They do way more damage to the courts when they try to shovel instead of letting it just melt naturally,” Scott Gilmore, deputy executive director of Denver Parks and Recreation, told Westword. “We do not allow it. To just go out there because you want to get out a day or two earlier and shovel is a very shortsighted way of trying to make sure that you can do what you want versus the good of the whole community.”

Gilmore explains that the court surfaces can be cracked if scratched by a shovel. 

Members of the Congress Park Pickleball Club had been shoveling snow off the four courts at Congress Park, but the parks and rec department took notice. 

“We would absolutely not want to hurt the surface, the already degraded surface, by shoveling snow,” said Marc Nelson, a Congress Park Pickleball Club leader and chair of Denver Pickleball, a nonprofit group dedicated to the sport. “They’re threatening fines and sanctions. … We don't want to break more rules, and we don't want to defy the parks department. We want to work together.”

Nelson and others have been a part of trying to lend some order to the city's courts at Congress Park where up to 300 people would play every day. They added a paddle-racking system for reserving spots, and put in a coat rack and a shelf for lost items. However, the parks department told them to take it all down. Nelson says the parks department has not been receptive to working with the pickleball community. 

“It looks like we're totally circumventing the rules, and we probably are bending the rules a little bit,” Nelson said. “It's just there's no one to reach. There's no one to talk to, and there's no one willing to do it. We're willing to reach out and create this community. “

Gilmore said it's more complicated than that, noting that he's just enforcing city rules. 

“The thing is, I don't want one specific group adding their equipment to the courts, because then they can actually have a say over who's using the court,” Gilmore explains.

Gilmore said that the city's focus right now is on ensuring that everyone has a place to recreate outdoors. 

“We have one of the most amazing, amazing park systems in the country, if not the world,” Gilmore says. “But as a department, and as a city, there are neighborhoods out there that don't have parks. Because of historical inequities...parks were built in wealthier neighborhoods, and neighborhoods that didn't have as much money, didn't have as much power and influence.... We really are concentrating on: Where are those parks? Where are those parts of the city where we need to add a park? Where do we need to provide a high-quality park for children and families that don't have any green space in their neighborhood?”

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