Seniors and youth clash at local rink over lack of space to enjoy their sport
Woods Park in the Wychwood neighborhood in Aylmer is a large park that has an outdoor hockey rink that doubles as pickleball courts. Over the warmer months, many play pickleball in the rink. A group of retired people use the courts during the week between 1:30 and 3:30pm, Wednesdays from 6 to 8pm and Thursdays from 6:30 to 8:30pm.
In the past few weeks, groups of children, between 11-13 years old, have wanted to use the rink for hockey. According to the mother of one of the children, a dispute has started between the group of young people and the retirees playing pickleball. The mother says that one individual was particularly aggressive, threatening the kids, while others told the children to go home.
According to one of the pickleball players, this was not the case; although the children were told to go home, no one threatened them. The player states that they tried to share the space, but the kids did not want to. Gatineau police were called to the scene on October 21; however, no criminal activity was identified.
Despite the conflict, both groups tell the Bulletin they believe the issue is due to a lack of outdoor sports infrastructure in the area. Gatineau responded, “The city offers four indoor pitches, one in each area, for the practice of pickleball, with dedicated time slots. In addition, 27 outdoor fields are being developed for pickleball, including nine in the Aylmer area. On the other hand, the city has 82 outdoor rinks on its territory. Among these, there are eight skating rinks with boards in the Aylmer area.”
Both the City of Gatineau and Aylmer Councillor, Steven Boivin highlight that users should show civility, courtesy, and respect for other users.
“According to the programming established with the Association régionale de pickleball de l'Outaouais (ARPO), and as indicated on its website, the summer session officially ended on September 9 at Woods Park,” said Boivin. “The association did not send us a request for an extension of this session. The extension of the season to December is a community initiative, which was not approved by the city.”
It should be noted that, at the time of the situation, Gatineau had not updated its website about the park’s schedule, despite it being past September 9. ARPO did not offer comment about the situation, apart from indicating that Gatineau is responsible for outdoor sports infrastructure.
Gatineau states that to address the situation they will be adding lines for six new pickleball courts on tennis courts in the Aylmer area in the spring 2023 and adding signage at the Woods Park rink stating that it is a multi-sport free-practice site, and a reminder of the necessity for respect and fair play. They have also added eight more hours of free pickleball time to the École De L'amérique-Française gym.
Photo caption: Pickleballers at Woods Park in Wychwood, Aylmer.
Photo credit: Alana Repstock