Net gain: Tennis court project deserves service received

Love those courts.

Between time, weather and avid use, the need for upgraded tennis courts had approached the level of emergency.

Kudos to the Hood River Tennis Committee for its years of hard work in garnering most of the $260,000 needed to redo the courts.

Further kudos to the Hood River City Council, and staff, for listening to the committee, checking its coffers and taking needed action to save the project.

Without the last-minute infusion of $24,842 in city money (article on page A1) it is likely the project would have to be delayed. Committee members said it might never get done, as the costs rise every year, and future grant availability would be, at best, difficult to predict.

Now, the project has the go-ahead, meaning tennis players young and old will be able to continue serving and volleying at the facility on May Street.

Besides Tsuruta Courts, the only other public courts in the county are the Taro Asai courts at the county’s Oak Grove Park. From high school team play to youth and adult recreation, the Tsuruta courts are a critical community resource for wellness and recreation.

Few sports share the range of benefits offered through tennis and with access to public courts, the cost of entry into the sport is minimal.

As Tennis Committee members Leslie Kerr and Gretchen Newcomb note, almost 13 percent of Hood River County’s population lives below the poverty line. Easy access improves participation across age groups, cultures and socioeconomic classes.

City Manager Bob Francis notes that with local donations topping $50,000 for the project, “the community is really coming through on this project, and we hope to see it start in the next couple of weeks.”

The new infusion of city money came after a creative assessment of where the city can save money, and redirecting of funds from other places to where it is needed more, at the Tsuruta courts.

The prime example of this was the $15,000 budgeted this year for last fall’s upgrade to Children’s Park. Thanks to citizen volunteer labor, the city saved $5,000, allowing those funds to go the tennis courts.

In a way, that community dynamic is a case of Giving to Peter to Give to Paul.

“When you look at it, the volunteers who helped at Children’s Park have helped pay for the tennis court project,” Francis said.

With the tennis court renovations starting almost immediately, it will mean a long summer for local players, including those enrolled in the Community Education youth program, who will need to cross the river to White Salmon to play.

But the result will be a revitalized facility with improved lighting, a needed brightening to the overall recreational scene in Hood River County.

The City Council showed some initial hesitation in providing extra funding, and the caution was warranted; but officials including Mayor Arthur Babitz, Public Works Director Mark Lago, and Francis took a proactive attitude to an immediate need, and the community will be all the richer for it.

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