When pickleball players arrived at the Santa Rosas Finely Community Park Saturday morning, they found blue bottles of motor oil emptied on the multi-purpose pickleball and tennis courts.
The lanes striped just for tennis were untouched.
The players also found a profanity laced note printed on a piece of white paper lying on one of the spaces. The writer threatened to tinker the cars of pickleball players coming to court, and called tennis players who did nothing to stop the pickleball players.
At least six gallons of oil were spilled on the courts, said Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Christopher Mahurin.
The cleanup would cost about $2,500, according to city officials.
Vandalism was not visible late Monday afternoon, but the gates to the tennis and pickleball courts were still locked and the city had posted signs saying the closures should be closed due to vandalism.
Were all on pins and needles, said Darleen Naslund, 78, a member of the Sonoma County Pickleball Club.
Saturday’s mess followed a series of vandalism targeting pickleball players after more than 100 of them attended an online Santa Rosa Board of Community Services meeting in late October and urged the board to add pickleball court striping to the last two tennis courts at Finley. The council approved the proposal.
The courts have been vandalized twice before, both on Friday night, Naslund said. Both times the tennis courts with no pickleball striping were untouched.
We can’t point the finger at anyone, but some tennis players were very upset that we’re going to strip the courts for pickleball, Naslund said. They can still play tennis, but they will have extra lines and that was very, very much contested at a Parks and Rec meeting.
According to Nalsund, the vandalism also comes after an angry confrontation with a tennis player last week. The player recalled pickleball players retired rich people who are prejudiced and don’t care about the working people, she said.
Which is absolutely not true, she added. We have all nationalities playing and all ages playing.
Mahurin told The Press Democrat that an investigation confirmed tension between tennis and pickleball players, but he said it is too early to say who is responsible for this weekend’s vandalism.
Questions about the tensions that existed over the creation of the pickleball courts were referred to city parks and recreation officials.
Nalsund said a lack of pickleball jobs in Sonoma County has led the players to call for more.
Club members have even raised more than $20,000 to purchase new pickleball nets at the Finley courts.
But now they were very concerned that if those nets come in, they might be destroyed.
In general, about 40 people gather in Finley Park to play pickleball, Naslund said. Due to the vandalism, she and a few other players met Monday morning at Howarth Park, which has four lanes.
Sunrise Park in Rohnert Park also has six lanes and is popular on weekends, but many who live in Santa Rosa prefer Finley for its proximity.
They were very upset that someone could go to all that trouble to destroy public property, Naslund said. We feel like it’s just one or two individuals doing this. We didn’t blame the entire tennis community.
City officials were busy Monday afternoon clearing the courts, which remained closed at the end of the day.
Press Democrat reporter Colin Atagi contributed to this story
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