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Pickleballers, the unhoused both face NIMBYism

Jim Cross

We have two prominent examples of NIMBYism in Durango. I have pondered the similarities between pickleball and the plight of the homeless here in our town. They both share a similar reaction from many in our community. NIMBY, of course, stands for “not in my backyard.” We support you pickleballers in your quest for courts of your own, but, please, I don’t want that noise near where I live. We have empathy for and support helping you, homeless people, but I don’t want you to bring your problems near where I live.

Neither of these issues has been solved yet. However, how is it that we seem closer to pickleball court construction than we are to a solution for sheltering the homeless? Is this a comment on our community’s priorities? One item brings joy to, mostly, seniors. The other can indeed be a life-threatening situation.

A recent news story in The Durango Herald reported on a sound study that determined how loud the game of pickleball actually is. The preliminary answer: within a distance of 100 feet (70 decibels) and 400 feet (58 decibels). Apparently, the city code states that noise needs to be mitigated if decibel levels of 55 or more are reached for 90% of the time in a residential neighborhood.

The other example given was that motorcycles are prohibited by city code from exceeding 88 decibels. (Yeah, right). Several of the Herald articles described the sound made when paddle contacts plastic ball as a “whack” or a “thwap.” Either way, several neighborhoods have complained about the sound being too loud and annoying. The whack or thwap has been described as “two pieces of wood being smacked together at irregular intervals.” As of now, Schneider Park seems to be the favored site of choice for court construction over a portion of a Fort Lewis College parking lot. However, more sound tests may be forthcoming.

The closest neighbors to be impacted by the noise at Schneider Park would be the River Roost Apartments and perhaps the Hilltop House near Greenmount Cemetery. Oh, and the skateboarders, but they probably have their earbuds in anyway. Having been a professor at FLC for 29 years, I can assure you that the noise would not impact students studying in nearby residence halls, who play their music at significantly higher decibel levels. Players could ride their bikes on the Animas River Trail to Schneider Park more easily than to FLC. A recent letter to the editor suggests the existing parking lots that run along north Main Avenue next to the baseball fields, as a worthy cost-saving site. It does seem like an idea worth investigating.

As for the homeless, it seems we have committed to a daytime warming place but no permanent site yet. Thank goodness, we have Durango Community Shelter and Manna Soup Kitchen, and their supporters. They are examples of our community at its best.

I favor a neighborhood of the tiny house idea as our next attempt at a solution. A recent article in The Atlantic headlined “The Obvious Answer to Homelessness” by Jerusalem Demsas, makes a strong case for a lack of affordable housing as the main reason for the increasing numbers of homeless in America. The article suggests that substance addiction and/or mental health are factors, but not the most important ones.

There is a new acronym group called YIMBY, which stands for “yes in my backyard.” It is a growing philosophy. Will Durango be able to get on board? I doubt it. Ever onward.

Jim Cross is a retired Fort Lewis College professor and basketball coach.