Barton Hill residents worry demand for pickleball courts will overwhelm parking

The Barton Hill tennis courts in Reston (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Reston Association is approaching a crossroads in its project to convert tennis courts at Barton Hill into pickleball courts.

The organization is now considering two potential designs for the facility at 1901 Barton Hill Road. One would replace two of the four existing tennis courts with 10 pickleball courts, including six dedicated courts and four with “blended lines” that could be shared with tennis players. The other would have four pickleball courts, all of them dedicated to the trendy sport.

Presented at a community meeting on Sept. 6, the second option was developed in response to noise concerns raised by community members in March, RA staff said.

However, Barton Hill residents remain skeptical of even the scaled-down proposal, according to a memo sent last week to RA and the Virginia Department of Transportation.

In addition to calling for advanced sound testing, residents say the courts lack “sufficient parking to accommodate the expected high demand” for pickleball. There are currently nine parking spaces for the tennis courts, including one ADA space, falling short of Fairfax County’s new two-spaces-per-court minimum requirement.

There are an additional 19 spaces on site to support the nearby soccer field, according to Bill Rountree, who wrote the letter as the self-identified “Barton Hill community spokesman.”

“It is our position that these are dedicated to soccer and may not be used to comply with County regulations,” Rountree wrote. “RA has no authority to declare such in the absence of a County determination.”

A pickleball study that the Fairfax County Park Authority finalized in December 2021 went even further with its parking guidelines, recommending that one space be provided per player.

According to the letter, residents estimate that the proposed courts could draw as many as 40 players at a time, based on the reported usage of the four pickleball courts at Autumnwood, which currently has the only dedicated pickleball facilities in Reston.

“In light of this, we strongly urge RA to consider implementing an appointment reservation system to manage the parking situation effectively,” Rountree said.

A requested crosswalk on Barton Hill Road at Sunrise Valley Drive could further aggravate the situation, the letter said, citing a county prohibition on parking within 20 feet of a crosswalk.

On behalf of the community, Rountree expressed overall support for adding a crosswalk, which residents hope will address safety issues at that intersection. RA staff have submitted a request to VDOT asking it to review the proposed crosswalk.

“RA’s proactive steps to seek the installation of a crosswalk in anticipation of increased traffic due to pickleball are laudable and prudent,” Rountree wrote.

VDOT didn’t have the status of the review on hand, but a spokesperson said the department’s “traffic engineering group always reviews every request for enhancements within our transportation system.”

When asked for comment, RA Chief Operating Officer Peter Lusk said the Board of Directors will consider the letter as part of a discussion on the Barton Hill courts project at its meeting tomorrow (Thursday).

The discussion will presumably also include consideration of feedback from residents who’ve expressed support for adding pickleball courts at Barton Hill.

In an email to the board, four RA members who signed up to speak at tomorrow’s meeting advocated for the initial design with six dedicated pickleball courts, arguing that the renovation shouldn’t include blended lines for pickleball.

“Should the Board elect to move forward with the less attractive establishment of only four (4) dedicated pickleball courts, we ask that the remaining Barton Hill court surface design allow for the potential option for adding up to two courts in the future,” the Reston residents wrote. “The unused surface area could be utilized now for players’ gathering within the fenced access area.”

If the board of directors decides to advance the project to the Design Review Board for its evaluation and approval, the process would take about 35 days, according to RA.

“The Reston Board of Directors is scheduled to discuss the Barton Hill courts project tomorrow night and provide direction to staff regarding next steps,” Lusk said.

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