We are writing to express our concern over the encroaching privatization of Brookdale Park, a cherished community resource for Montclair as well as for our neighbors in Bloomfield and Glen Ridge. We hope that the following example is not symptomatic of a trend.
As recent converts to the sport of pickleball, we have been playing regularly on the pickleball courts in Brookdale. Although nominally public, these courts are managed by a private company, Tiger Tennis and Fitness in West Caldwell. We pay $225 each for seasonal passes. Because of high demand we cannot reserve courts far in advance. Like many others we enjoy playing on weekday evenings after work.
However, despite our seasonal passes we have had trouble reserving a court on Tuesday evenings because the Montclair Golf Club, an exclusive private club, has reserved five of the six available courts for its members at that time. Unlike regular users, the Montclair Golf Club has been allowed to book public courts far in advance and through the month of June, until its own pickleball courts are ready. The regular users, all of us residents of the surrounding towns, are left to vie for the one remaining court.
That a wealthy private club can annex a public resource for its own convenience flies in the face of our towns’ ethos of inclusivity and equal access. Surely it goes without saying that a public park, and public resources, should be for the public? We have sent a letter to Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, our designated local protector of public spaces, asking him to ensure equal access to our own recreational resources. Let us hope that he will make changes to reverse this worrisome trend toward the privatization of public space.
Belinda Edmondson, Jacqueline Mroz, Megan Blumenreich, Chris Mann, Suzanne Farkas,
Editor’s note: A county spokesperson confirmed to Montclair Local operation of the Brookdale Park tennis clubs has been bid to private vendors since at least the 1990s. Pickleball courts are rented to Montclair Golf Club on Tuesdays evenings each week for 90 minutes, but available for public use at other times. The county is considering creating pickleball courts at tennis facilities in Grover Cleveland and Verona Parks, lining courts for both games, to accommodate increasing demand, the spokesman said.
This post has been updated to remove the name June Zimmerman from the letter’s signers, after the submitter included in error.
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