Santa Rosa tennis, pickleball courts reopen after vandalism
The tennis and pickleball courts at Santa Rosa’s Finley Community Park reopened Tuesday after city workers cleaned up oil that had been poured on the playing surfaces by vandals, officials said.
The courts had been closed since Saturday, when a group of pickleball players arrived and found that blue bottles of motor oil had been emptied onto the courts that are striped for both pickleball and tennis.
The courts striped only for tennis were untouched.
The players also found a profanity-laced note printed on a piece of white paper lying on one of the courts. Its writer threatened to key the cars of any pickleball players who came to the courts, and called tennis players who didn’t do anything to stop the pickleball players “chickens.”
At least six quarts of oil were spilled onto the courts, said Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Christopher Mahurin.
Cleanup was expected to cost about $2,500, according to city staff.
“We’re all on pins and needles,” said Darleen Naslund, 78, a member of the Sonoma County Pickleball Club.
The mess on Saturday followed a string of vandalism aimed at pickleball players after more than 100 of them joined an online Santa Rosa Board of Community Services meeting in late October and urged the board to add pickleball court striping to the last two tennis-only courts at Finley. The board voted to approve the proposal.
The courts have been vandalized twice before, both on Friday nights, Naslund said. Both times, the tennis courts without pickleball striping were untouched.
“We can’t point any fingers at anyone, but some of the tennis players were very upset that we are going to be striping the courts for pickleball,” Naslund said. “They’re still able to play tennis but they will have extra lines and that was contested very, very much at a Parks and Rec meeting.”
The vandalism also comes after an angry confrontation with a tennis player last week, according to Nalsund. The player called pickleball players “retired rich people” who are “prejudiced” and “don’t care about the working people,” she said.
“Which is definitely not true,” she added. “We have all nationalities playing and all ages playing.”
Mahurin told The Press Democrat that an investigation confirmed tension existed between tennis and pickleball players, but he said it’s too early to say who’s responsible for this weekend’s vandalism.
Questions about the tensions that have existed over the creation of the pickleball courts were referred to city Parks and Recreation officials.
Nalsund said a lack of pickleball courts in Sonoma County has led the players to advocate for more.
Club members even raised more than $20,000 to buy new pickleball nets at the Finley courts.
“But now we’re very, very worried that when those nets come in, they may possibly be destroyed.”
Generally, about 40 people gather at Finley Park to play pickleball, Naslund said. Because of the vandalism, she and a few other players met on Monday morning at Howarth Park, which has four courts.
Sunrise Park in Rohnert Park also has six courts, and is popular on the weekends, but many who live in Santa Rosa prefer Finley due to its proximity.
“We’re very upset that someone could go to all that trouble to destroy public property,” Naslund said. “We feel it’s just one or two individuals that are doing this. We’re not blaming the whole tennis community.”
Press Democrat reporter Colin Atagi contributed to this story
You can reach Staff Writer Alana Minkler at 707-526-8511 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @alana_minkler.
Breaking news & general assignment reporter, The Press Democrat
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