Pickleball relished daily in Oregon City's Hillendale Park
Recently construction was completed on a 20-by-30-foot concrete pad with bleachers installed on the north side of Oregon City's Hillendale Park sports courts.
Hillendale's newest feature will allow people to relax and watch a game at the courts that allow for tennis, pickleball, badminton or basketball.
Melissa Edmunson, a Hillendale Pickleball Club board member, credited club members Jeff Grant, Robert Small and Tim Wuest for their successful 2019 grant application in the amount of $6,000 to receive the construction funding through the tax charged to hotels in Clackamas County. Earlier Metro grants have provided tens of thousands of dollars to refurbish the courts.
Edmunson said the latest grant is an indication of the continuing pursuit of acquiring funds by members of the club to enhance the pickleball-playing experience at Hillendale. She said club members maintain the wind barriers attached to the fencing and patch the court surface when required.
"Much of the routine maintenance cost, if not all, is something the club gladly contributes to keep the courts in tip-top shape," Edmunson said. "The club, as a whole, has very many active members who give their time to maintain the courts so that OC Parks and Rec are not burdened with maintenance requests.
"Our future goals are to acquire funding to install lights on the court for evening play, to install permanent nets, a permanent restroom facility and closer parking to the courts," she said.
Hillendale was the first eight-court pickleball facility and the first public pickleball courts east of the Willamette River in the Portland metro area. With about 30 members in its first year, the Hillendale Pickleball Club grew to about 180 members in 2020.
Oregon City officials closed the courts last spring, but the park facility reopened during the pandemic, as people felt safe conducting an outdoor sport that lends itself to social distancing. Having Hillendale draw so many people to play pickleball, some from as far away as Zigzag, has a secondary financial benefit to the community, Edmunson said.
"After play it was not uncommon for groups of players to retire to various eating establishments in Oregon City, thereby spending money at local businesses," she said. "We would sit there sipping iced tea and eating a sandwich, kidding each other about shots made and shots missed, always waiting for the opportunity to get in a 'zinger' on one of our friends."
What's pickleball, you ask? For the uninitiated, it's a game using a slightly lowered tennis net and combining game elements from badminton, pingpong and squash. The sport uses lighter balls and racquets on half-size tennis courts and has grown increasingly popular in recent years, especially as an alternative to tennis for seniors with lower mobility.
Why is it called pickleball? Well, there's the apocryphal version of this story and the real one, according to Tom Widden, USA Pickleball Northwest District ambassador. Widden says many people like to tell the made-up story of the sport's inventor's dog, Pickles.
The true origin of the name is more complicated. Widden says that former Washington state Rep. Joel Pritchard's wife, Joan, started calling the game pickleball, which they invented with friends in the 1960s, because as she is reported to have said, "the combination of different sports reminded me of the 'pickle boat' in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats."
Widden said USA Pickleball has successfully reclaimed thousands of abandoned tennis courts and basketball courts, including Hillendale Park in Oregon City in 2015.
Tennis courts were typically erected during the early 1950s with the surge of the park construction done for the returning veterans starting families. Several generations of once-avid tennis players have passed into retirement age now, and interest in golf and tennis is in steep decline.
"Municipalities are loath to spend money on unused facilities, so courts go neglected and fall into disrepair," Widden said. "But pickleball is now the sport of choice for baby boomers/retirees and is quoted by U.S. Sports Federation as one of the fastest-growing sports in the USA."
At Hillendale Park it is common to have 30 to 50 people turn out for a three-hour session on a sunny day. Currently, there are no permanent nets on the courts, but people are welcome to bring their own net and balls to play anytime, or use the equipment provided by the Hillendale Pickleball Club when it plays from 9 a.m.-noon every day that it is dry outside.
"Young and old can mix in with members to play the game," Wuest said. "There is free instruction available to help you learn the sport.
Oregon City residents Rita and Robert Maynard led the effort to bring the sport here. Finding no local pickleball courts, they put on a well-attended demonstration at Clackamas Community College, taping pickleball court lines on the tennis courts. That event gave them momentum to lobby Oregon City Parks and Recreation to transition tennis courts to include pickleball at a city park.
The club is looking for new members, and more information can be found at facebook.com/Hillendale-Pickleball-Club-Oregon-City-Oregon-1685532998335239.
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