A year ago, the parks and recreation department received a grant to construct four new pickleball courts in the city. The sport, which is similar to tennis, is growing in popularity nationwide and has a devoted group of players in Moab. The grant to construct the courts came with two notable requirements: first, the courts must be built on Moab city property, and second, they would have to be permanent.

During a city council meeting on Feb. 8, the council voted to pursue construction at Old City Park. However, due to pushback from residents, the city decided to scrap the project.

“At this point in the process, staff is recommending to not pursue this grant opportunity,” said Annie McVay, the parks, recreation and trails director at the city. A few factors were involved in the decision, McVay said: input from residents played a part, but also, due to rising construction costs, the anticipated cost of the courts rose from $180,000 to almost $300,000.

Many residents suggested courts could be built at the Spanish Arena—while the city won’t be able to transfer over this specific grant, McVay said officials at the arena could look into applying for a grant during its next cycle, and the city’s parks department will put support toward the Arena’s efforts, she said.

“It’s kind of disappointing for us to forgo this opportunity,” she said. “But for me, there were two key takeaways: one, we want to make sure that everyone knows the city does value pickleball as a sport … and the second is the community’s passion for Old City Park. It’s a beautiful park, but I do think it is underutilized, and with appropriate planning and public involvement, I think it could benefit from future park improvements.”

The city council members thanked McVay and City Sports Director Patrick Trim for their work on the grant, and expressed that in the future, the council should attempt to find better ways to communicate projects to the community.

“It’s incumbent on us to be a little more proactive in bringing the community into the conversation,” Councilmember Luke Wojciechowski said. “I’ve seen situations like this arise before where the city council gets feedback from all the people in support of a project, and then once it gets passed, word spreads through the community and staff has to double-back. We need to understand that staff time is one of the most important resources that we have in terms of actually being able to get things accomplished.”

Mayor Joette Langianese and Councilmember Tawny Knuteson-Boyd expressed their surprise that pickleball became the main community discussion.

“I never thought in my wildest dreams that the first controversial issue we’d be dealing with was pickleball,” Langianese said. “But we handled it well, and I appreciate everybody’s comments out there from the community, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing from you again on another issue that’s just as important.”

“I wish our residents would get as fired up and as worked up and excited about our crumbling sewer pipes and affordable housing,” Knuteson-Boyd said. “We’ve got a lot of hard things to deal with, and we need community support in those difficult decisions. Not just the ones that are recreation-related.”