Struggle over pickleball players' access to Mayne Island tennis courts ends in B.C. Supreme Court
The court case revolved around a community centre decision to allow 21 hours of pickleball play each week
A B.C. Supreme Court judge has dismissed a petition from a group of tennis players on Mayne Island who had tried to assert total control over two tennis courts in order to prevent people from playing pickleball there.
The nine petitioners argued that a group called the Mayne Island Tennis Association (MITA) had raised tens of thousands of dollars, cleared wooded land on the Mayne Island Community Centre property, and there built the two courts which they maintained for about 14 years.
They also entered into an agreement with the community centre to control the tennis courts.
For years, MITA held exclusive use of the courts for tennis.
But as the popularity of pickleball grew on the island, a shift took place on the elected board of the Mayne Island Community Centre Society (MICCS): in 2021, five new members joined the board. According to the B.C. Supreme Court Decision, at least three of the five were also members of the local pickleball club.
The board election was the subject of a Capital Daily story titled "The pickleball coup."
In May, 2022, the MICCS board announced that pickleball players would be granted access to the tennis courts, with 21 hours each week dedicated to the sport.
Twenty-one hours per week would also remain for tennis, some of which were reserved for tennis association members.
In attempt to stop the pickleball accommodation, the tennis players filed their petition.
Rift in the community
The struggle over use of the two courts has created a rift in the small community, according to Adrian Gowing, MITA president and one of the people who filed the petition.
The 21-square-kilometre Mayne Island is in B.C.'s Southern Gulf Islands, between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. It is home to about 1,300 people.
"You know, we're in our little village here. At times we get on the ferries to go places and and now you're sort of looking around going, 'Oh, I don't want to talk to that person, I don't want to talk to that person.' It's become quite uncomfortable," said Gowing.
He said the court challenge may have contributed to the tension, but now that the judge has settled the matter, Gowing said he's worried the pickleball players will be emboldened.
"We sort of think a year from now, our tennis facility could be turned into a permanent pickleball facility. We have no idea, but they certainly have the power to do that — we've lost this case," he said.
"It's been quite devastating."
Community centre society owns the tennis courts: judge
Justice Bill Basran awarded costs to the respondent, MICCS, so Gowing and his fellow petitioners have to pay a portion of their legal fees along with the cost of their own lawyer. He said it's challenging to raise cash for a case they've lost.
"The only focus we have right now is to pay this $50,000, somehow and then kind of, you know, reshape our lives and figure out where we're going to go from here," Gowing said.
Catherine McNeill, a pickleball player and president of the MICCS board, said the board is pleased the court decision went in their favour.
"It's been very difficult in our community," McNeill said.
Basran found that the evidence clearly establishes that MICCS is the owner of the land upon which the tennis courts were built.
"It owns the tennis courts. They are assets on its balance sheets as is the bank balance in the tennis fund," Basran wrote in his decision, which notes that the tennis association is an unincorporated, non-legal entity.