A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has thrown out a petition by a group of tennis players on Mayne Island who had tried to exert complete control over two tennis courts 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 Center property, and built the two courts there that they maintained for approximately 14 years.
They also reached an agreement with the community center to control the tennis courts.
For years, MITA held exclusive use of the tennis courts.
But as pickleball’s popularity grew on the island, there was a change in the elected board of the Mayne Island Community Center Society (MICCS): In 2021, five new members joined the board. According to the British Columbia Supreme Court decision, at least three of the five were also members of the local pickleball club.
The election of the board was the subject of a Capital Daily History titled “The Pickleball Slam”.
In May 2022, the MICCS board announced that pickleball players would have access to the tennis courts, with 21 hours each week dedicated to the sport.
There would also be twenty-one hours a week left for tennis, some of which were reserved for members of the tennis association.
In an attempt to stop pickleball hosting, the tennis players filed their petition.
rift in the community
The fight over the use of the two courts has created a rift in the small community, according to Adrian Gowing, president of MITA and one of the petitioners.
The 21 square kilometer Mayne Island is located in the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia, between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. It is home to about 1,300 people.
“You know, we’re in our little town here. Sometimes we get on the ferries to go places and now you look around and go, ‘Oh, I don’t want to talk to that person, I don’t want to talk to that person. It’s been become quite uncomfortable,” Gowing said.
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 pickleball players will cheer up.
“We think that within a year, our tennis facility could become a permanent pickleball facility. We have no idea, but they certainly have the power to do that, we have lost this case,” he said.
“It’s been pretty devastating.”
Community center society owns tennis courts: judge
Judge Bill Basran awarded costs to the defendant, MICCS, so Gowing and his fellow petitioners have to pay a portion of their legal fees along with the cost of their own attorney. He said it’s a challenge to raise cash for a case they’ve lost.
“The only focus we have right now is paying off this $50,000, somehow and then, you know, reshaping our lives and figuring out where we’re going to go from here,” Gowing said.
Catherine McNeill, a pickleball player and chair of the MICCS board, said the board is pleased that the court’s decision was in her favor.
“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 on 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 its decision, noting that the tennis association is an entity without legal personality.