City seeks federal grant for pickleball, tennis courts in Veterans Park

By PATRICK O’GRADY

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 07-09-2024 5:30 PM

CLAREMONT — Pickleball enthusiasts could be playing on new outdoor courts next spring if the city can land a $300,000 federal grant that would pay half of the estimated construction costs for a Veterans Park project, which would also include new tennis courts.

The city will find out later this fall whether it is awarded the Land and Water Conservation Fund grant, Parks and Recreation Director Justin Martin said at a presentation of the project held last Tuesday at the community center and attended by 15 residents.

The city has passed the first round in the approval process and its chances of final approval are enhanced because the 100% match for the grant, $300,000, has been set aside by the city using American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, funds it received during the COVID-19 pandemic, Martin said.

“Having that (match). I feel as though we are in a good position,” Martin said. “I feel we have a good shot to get this grant.”

If the city is awarded the grant, Martin said the site work could be completed this fall with the paving of the four pickleball and two tennis courts, construction of fencing and painting done in the spring. The courts would be constructed in the area of the former outdoor pool, which was shut down and filled in several years ago.

The company the city has been working with on the layout of the courts said the old pool has to be excavated and removed, otherwise the ground could shift and damage the courts, Mart  in said. Excavating the pools and preparing the ground is about half of the project costs, he said.

Martin presented some conceptual plans for how the courts would be laid out. Once constructed, the city would look to add other amenities such as bathrooms and walking paths to the courts from the park’s parking lot, which also may be enlarged, he said. The park already has a softball field and playground.

For now, pickleball players use the gym inside the community center and tennis players have to use the four deteriorating tennis courts at Monadnock Park. Two tennis courts that were at Moody Park had not been used for several years because of their condition and have been removed. The area will be used for parking and will be next to a planned dog park.

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No one at the meeting objected to the chosen site but a few asked about maybe repairing, if only temporarily, the sizable cracks and uneven surface at the Monadnock courts. Martin rejected that idea, saying repairing those courts would be costly and wouldn’t make sense financially because the entire Monadnock sports complex — which includes an outdoor track — is in a flood plain which adds maintenance costs. There have been a few times during heavy rains the entire park, including the tennis courts, have been underwater.

New tennis courts were part of the city’s master plan in 2017, Martin said in his presentation.

Under federal guidelines on use of the ARPA money, the city must have a contract signed by Dec. 31, and spend the money within two years. If the city does not get the grant, Martin was not sure how it might proceed but suggested a scaled back project is a possibility.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.