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Peterborough City Hall. Photo by Abbigale Kernya

Peterborough Formally Supports B’nai Brith's Call to Action and Addresses The Great Pickleball Debate

Written by
Abbigale Kernya
and
and
October 24, 2023
Peterborough Formally Supports B’nai Brith's Call to Action and Addresses The Great Pickleball Debate
Peterborough City Hall. Photo by Abbigale Kernya

Delegations for the October 23rd City Council Meeting were predominantly centred around the Parks and Outdoor Recreation Facilities Study, which sought council endorsement for the redevelopment of Bonnerworth and Knights of Columbus Parks as the first phase of the plan. 

Bruce Brozec, President of the Peterborough Pickleball Association, spoke first on his support for the Knights of Columbus redevelopment, stating the growing demand for Pickleball in Peterborough.

“Peterborough Pickleball Association was formed in October 2021 when about 10 people on a cold October day sat at the bottom of the courts and decided we need an Association,” he said. 

“Pickleball in Peterborough goes back to about 2014, when a small group obtained approval to convert the tennis court at Knights of Columbus Park into pickleball courts, and the craziness started then. As many of you are aware, Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in North America. In Peterborough, we are approaching 400 members and we expect to hit 500 members next year. Needless to say, more courts are needed.”

He also told council that because of the rising demand for the sport, the Peterborough Pickleball Association hosted 20 programs from beginners to advanced players at both Knights of Columbus and Bonnerworth Park which “increased revenue for hotels and restaurants”, adding that the report’s recommendation of 16 new, lit pickleball courts will greatly benefit this city’s economy. 

“16 courts are a great start,” said Brozec, and emphasized the physical and mental benefits of pickleball as a team sport that connects communities together. 

Brozec also stated that Peterborough has an opportunity to become a leader in major pickleball tournaments with the installation of these extra courts, citing a conversation he had with Peterborough Tourism who “[are] a great supporter of pickleball” and “suggests that the anticipated economic impact could be between $60,000 to $10,000” he said, “This is our Field of Dreams.”

On the opposite side of the great pickleball debate in this city, Ken Towle voiced his concerns with this report, citing the noise and traffic disturbances residents nearby Knights of Columbus Park face due to the popular sport.

Towle prefaced his delegation by stating he understands the great social impact of pickleball, but hopes city council can find a compromise in the location of the new courts that can satisfy everyone. 

“I acknowledge that pickleball is a very good exercise, it’s a great social thing, I have nothing against pickleball per se” he said.

He then played a recording on his phone (which was not audible through the City Hall livestream) stating “This is what I was listening to just this afternoon…imagine if you had to listen to this 12–13 hours a day, seven days a week for months and months on end. It drives you literally insane…this is a serious mental health issue of sports in residential areas and for that reason, I am fully behind this new parks and recreation study and its recommendations, provided that pickleball is removed from the Knights of Columbus Park, because it is incompatible with residential areas,” said Towle.

He also cited traffic congestion as a major reason for his suggestion of relocating the new courts. 

“The amount of traffic on my street has risen considerably” he said, detailing drivers rubber-necking by his house to see if the courts are in use. Towle hopes to see a no parking zone implemented to stop people from parking outside his home. 

Finally, Towle spoke about the lack of communication between the city and residents when building the Parks and Recreation report, stating that neither he nor residents around the parks were consulted about it despite a “supposed consultation” done for the report.

Speaking again on the Parks and Outdoor Recreation Facilities Study were Geoff Rix and Dan Post of Peterborough Skateboard Coalition. The two founding members spoke on their endorsement of the report, citing the skateboard strategy in the Bonnerworth Park redevelopment as “[their] voices being heard.”

The strategy would see an expanded skateboarding park at Bonnerworth Park, which aims to combat what Rix and Post describe as “uninspired” skateboarders—specifically kids—due to Peterborough’s current inadequate skateboard parks.

Much like pickleball, skateboarding was the fastest growing sport in the city 23 years ago, Post said during his delegation, and noted that “now we are seeing what happens when you don’t grow alongside it.”

He also cited a skateboard summer camp event last summer in Peterborough in partnership with the city, that was ultimately cancelled because the current park was deemed unsafe. The pair also shared that they have the support from Big Brothers Big Sisters who are waiting on a place to invest in skateboarding. 

“We’re looking forward to building a space that welcomes in the future generations of new park teachers and we fully support the redevelopment of Bonnerworth Park as a multi-sport club. We are likewise eager to collaborate with the Pickleball Association and the BMX group on a world class destination for our region,” said Post, “My kids are the next generation of skatepark users, and right now I do not feel great about taking them to the skate park. But with this plan, I can see a brighter future ahead.”

Councillor Alex Bierk asked the pair about supporting amenities such as pavilions and water fountains, which were mentioned in their delegation. 

“We have a whole host of ideas, we just need a great space. The current park has no bleachers, no picnic tables, and very little access to washrooms, no water, and no sun shade … adding those into a new space, making those part of the plan will be phenomenal” Rix said.

Councillor Gary Baldwin inquired on whether or not the Coallition would be offering skateboard lessons to seniors, “because if you do, I’d love to pay for a lesson for Councillor Riel.”

The pair responded with an enthusiastic “yes”.

I can hardly wait to do a kickflip” said Riel, and thanked the two for coming and he shared that he looks forward to meeting the needs of the community. 

Next the agenda for the City Council Meetings was approval for the recommendations made at the October 10th General Comittee Meeting for the Community Grant History and Future Direction Report. This report states that the 2025 Art Investment Fund would be separated from the Community Wellbeing Grants program and that funding for the Arts would now be streamlined into four categories:

A screenshot from the Community Grant History and Future Direction Report

The report states that the new Professional Arts Orginization Grant is to be a two-year pilot program introduced in the 2025 budget, with the staff from Art Gallery of Peterborough in collaboration with Electric City Culture Council appointed to administer the umbrella grant and collaborate in the jury process. 

This report, however, does not contain a definition of what the City of Peterborough deems a “professional artist”. The report also states that “$60,000 would be transferred from the Community Grant Program to the professional arts orginization stream with the fund to be administered through the Arts and Culture Division’s operating budget.” 

The report does not elaborate on what the removal of the $60,000 from the Community Grant Program would mean for the program. 

No councillors wished to speak on the recommendations and it was approved unanimously. 

At the end of the meeting, Mayor Jeff Leal brought forward a motion of support for B’nai Brith’s demand for the release of the Deschenes Commision Report in its entirety. 

Every item on the agenda was passed unanimously, with Duguay abstaining due to a conflict of interest on item 10.a.1, a Zoning By-law amendment for 889 Western Avenue.

Following former Speaker of the House, Anthony Rota’s welcoming of a Nazi war criminal in the House of Commons, B’nai Brith—Canada’s oldest independent Jewish human rights organization—put forward a demand that the Deschenes Commission Report be released in its entirety to the public in order to restore public faith in Parliament. 

The Deschenes Commission was created in 1985 by the Federal Government to determine the number of Nazi war criminals residing in Canada and establish legal measures to prosecute any found. 

The statement released by B’nai Brith states that thousands of Nazis were knowingly permitted to stay in Canada and “Canadians deserve to know the full extent to which Nazi war criminals were permitted to settle in this country after the war.” 

The Deschenes Commission’s Final Report has remained largely redacted since its establishment. 

The motion of support to the General Committee Meeting stated Peterborough’s solidarity with B’nai Brith, and that Peterborough City Council supports the request for the immediate release of all documentation pertaining to the 1986 Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals in Canada, including an unredacted copy of the final report.

“We're all aware of the incident that occurred in the House of Commons a number of weeks ago. And B’nai Brith, of course is moving these motions across Canada. And we're all aware of the rise of anti-semitism in North America and indeed in many of our communities. So I wanted to bring this motion forward and to move it on to the Parliament of Canada,” said Mayor Jeff Leal.

The motion was passed unanimously with a copy of the motion to be sent to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Arif Cirant and the President of the Treasury Board, Anita Anand.

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