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Peabody is the place to be for pickleball buffs

Donna Athanas of Manchester, returns a serve as Daryll Drew of Winchester looks on during a Pickleball tournament at Marrs Park in Peabody to benefit the Sullivan Stronger Team, who is participating in the Jimmy Fund Walk this week. (Spenser Hasak)

PEABODY The City of Peabody recently completed a couple of park improvement projects it hopes will have pickleball players and hoopsters alike jumping for joy at Marrs Park.

Funded by the Community Preservation Act, the project included the resurfacing of the basketball court and the construction of a new state-of-the-art pickleball complex on the site of an abandoned lot. The complex features three custom-designed courts, along with a viewing area for fans.

This past Saturday, the pickleball complex was loaded with players (and volunteers) competing in a special tournament to raise money for the Sullivan Stronger Team in the 2020 Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk that will be held Oct. 4. The event raised more than $2,600.

“We were only expecting about $1,000, so to raise that much was fantastic,” said USA Pickleball Atlantic Region Assistant Director Sue Carnevale. “We had to limit the people to 50 total in two two-hour sessions, and that included players and volunteers, so we were very happy to raise that much.”

The new complex is serving as host of two new Peabody Recreation “Pickleball in the Parks” programs for adults 18 and over that began last week. Interest in both sessions has been keen with only one spot left in the beginner class, which meets Tuesdays from 5:30-7 p.m. through Oct. 27, and only four spots left in the advanced class, which meets Thursdays at the same time through Oct. 29.

“We are very happy to be offering pickleball for the first time and are all set for a nice season this fall, and then we plan to pick it back up next spring,” said Recreation Program Supervisor Kierstin Pane. “I don’t know much about the sport except that it’s popularity has gone off the charts. We think that the response, because it’s new, tells us this will be a big program for years to come. Of course, it’s necessarily smaller than we’d like because of COVID.”

The Marrs Park project nearly doubles the number of the city’s pickleball courts. Five courts near Roosevelt Avenue and Russell Street at Corbeil Park were resurfaced and painted as pickleball courts a few years ago. That location has been a regular gathering place for pickleball fanatics of all ages who compete in leagues, tournaments and casual play.

The Community Preservation Act, signed into law in 2000, helps strengthen the state and local economies by expanding housing opportunities and construction jobs, helping communities preserve open spaces and historic sites, create affordable housing, and develop outdoor recreational facilities. 

Peabody was one of the first communities to adopt the CPA, which passed by a slim margin in November, 2001, with 7,936 residents voting in favor and 7,389 residents voting against. CPA projects are funded by a one percent surcharge on property taxes along with annual distributions from the state’s Community Preservation Trust Fund.

One large Peabody project funded with CPA funds was the 2006 $2.6 million acquisition of Tillie’s Farm. Other projects include a new park on Walnut Street, new playgrounds across the city, the Leatherworkers Museum and improvements at City Hall.

In Peabody, the CPA committee annually reviews all applications and submits those it deems worth pursuing to the City Council finance subcommittee for approval. Projects must then be approved by the City Council to move forward.

According to data on the CPA’s website, 177 Massachusetts communities have adopted the CPA, which represents 50 percent of the Commonwealth’s cities and towns. Sixty-two percent of the state’s population live in CPA communities. All told, more than $2.35 billion has been raised for community funding statewide with more than 12,000 projects approved by local legislative bodies. 

More than 6,800 affordable housing units have been created with another 10,700 units being supported. The act has helped preserve nearly 31,000 acres of open space and has helped fund more than 5,500 historic preservation projects and over 2,500 outdoor recreation projects.

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