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Work begins on $400,000 tennis, pickleball courts in Pugwash

PUGWASH – Pickleball is fun, it’s friendly and its popularity is continuing to grow.

 To accommodate its growth in the community as well as the continued popularity of tennis, Sunset Community Inc. has come together with the federal, provincial and municipal governments and the Northumberland Tennis and Pickleball Association to start construction on a new pickleball and tennis complex near the adult residential centre in Pugwash.

Maritime Tennis Courts began construction of the $400,000-plus project on Monday, Aug. 8. The project, which includes two regulation-size tennis courts and four pickleball courts is expected to be completed by mid-September.

“This is terrific for our association, but these will be public courts, so it’s going to be terrific for the entire community,” Northumberland Tennis and Pickleball Association Diane Burnham of the chair said. “This is going to be built right with plenty of space.

“To be able to partner with Sunset is huge. It wouldn’t have happened without their collaboration and that of the municipality, the province and the federal government. It’s a win-win situation.”

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) is a major funding partner in the project, providing $250,000 through its Canada Community Revitalization Fund, while the provincial government, through the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, is providing $85,000. The Municipality of the County of Cumberland is providing $15,000 to the project while the tennis and pickle ball association’s members are providing $37,000 and the John and Judy Bragg Foundation is contributing $10,000.

“Residents and participants in Sunset Community’s residential and social enterprises, employees and their families, all NTPA members, local residents as well as visitors to the Pugwash area will have the opportunity to use the tennis and pickleball courts,” Sunset CEO Julie Hoeg said. “Opportunities for inclusive and accessible recreation are limited in our rural community.  The development of these courts will provide a state-of-the-art outdoor facility to add to our existing programming.”

Hoeg said the project will enhance community recreation in a significant way for people of all ages and abilities and help integrate the larger Pugwash and area community into the lives of those at the Sunset Community.

Pickleball was invented in 1965 near Seattle, Wash. by Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum, who were looking for a fun game for their children who were bored with the usual summertime activities. The sport has evolved from the original homemade equipment and simple rules into a sport that’s exploding in popularity across North America and around the world.

Community Courts in Action chair Mark Scott said there is a huge need for new tennis and pickleball courts in the community. The existing courts on Prince Albert Street were built below grade and have had drainage issues for many years. The association was facing the decision whether to rebuild the existing courts or look for alternatives.

“We couldn’t keep building it up and hoping it would drain,” said Scott. “Because it was heaving year after year, we would have to go in every year and build it up and fill the cracks. There was really no solution to fixing it long term.”

The project is one of several initiatives underway in the community, including the province’s construction of a new health-care facility to replace North Cumberland Memorial Hospital and the municipality’s construction of a new library on Durham Street, which will replace the existing library that has been in the village’s former train station since 1988.

Cumberland County Deputy Mayor Jennifer Houghtaling said the project responds to a community need.

"This growth on the North Shore is not going unnoticed, as the municipality recently found during the Clear the Deck review, Cumberland County's beaches along the Northumberland Strait are growing and have become a tourist destination” said Deputy Mayor Houghtaling, who represents the area on Cumberland municipal council.

“Adding recreational opportunities like this significant can only boost our beautiful area. I especially want to acknowledge the incredible efforts of the NTPA in spearheading this project, without these volunteer organizations our communities would not be what they are today"

After ruling out the existing courts, Scott said the group looked at potential locations within the village proper before extending the search to the Sport Pugwash site and then to Sunset.

Once it’s completed, Scott said the Pugwash facility will be among the most modern in the province and one of the few that is completely accessible. It will also enable Pugwash to host provincial and/or regional competitions, like the provincial pickleball tournament that attracted several hundred people to Truro earlier this year.

Scott added it’s amazing how the community has responded to the committee’s ask for donations.

“We’ve had everything from $100 donations to $10,000 donations,” Scott said. “It’s just incredible how the community has responded. People see the benefit, but of added benefit to me is the synergy it develops with Sunset. This facility will bring people to Sunset after years of Sunset going out into the community. Also, with the proximity of the disc golf and the ballfield and the trails coming through here, this is becoming a great recreational facility.”