A proposal to establish a members’ club at the Cedarvale Park courts has been withdrawn after some members of the community gave the suggestion a backhand.
The Cedarvale Tennis Academy and Club proposed converting the four tennis courts at Cedarvale Park into a community tennis club, which would require members to pay an $85 fee in exchange for preferential access to the court, as well as for its maintenance.
The initial proposal suggested 17 hours for public use, which was subsequently amended to 50/50 shared use, or 56 hours for each stakeholder.
But members of the community, such as Chris Chopik, still took issue with the proposal, partly because the tennis courts were recently moved and upgraded at a cost of $436,000 in public funds.
“Frankly, I think the community has a right to be angry, or to have a deep visceral reaction to the initial proposal of the club,” Chopik said. “I think that was obscene.”
Chopik said he’s not fundamentally against the idea of a tennis club, but is concerned because it’s a public asset.
“If someone wanted to rent those courts to do a tournament on the weekend or whatever, that makes sense to me,” he said. “The issue I have is some private organization governing or limiting the use of public space.”
In an email to the Town Crier, the Cedarvale Tennis Academy and Club explained they withdrew the proposal because the amended terms were no longer acceptable.
“We came to the decision because the 50/50 proposal which was the second proposal we put forward was not one that we were able to get comfortable with on behalf of the 400 members we represent,” they said.
“We did not feel that we would be able to help ensure that the courts were well maintained or that we would be able to realistically be responsible for the equipment we were going to invest in if we were only able to be there 50 (percent) of the time.”
The author of the email was identified only as the Cedarvale Tennis Academy and Club Executive.
A post on the Cedarvale Park website claims the club’s membership was formed inequitably, because only the founder’s friends were contacted and the surrounding community ignored.
“The way this happened to me is simply ‘Hey, cool new courts, let’s go create a private club on those new courts, we don’t have to pay any infrastructure and we benefit from exclusive use,’ ” Chopik said. “It doesn’t seem to me that this process has been anything like a community engagement process.”
Comments on a Facebook page for the club suggest they have reached capacity before even reaching out to the community. The club contends they have only been trying to reach the minimum 120 members required by Toronto City Parks and Recreation to form the club.
“Given that we had no money and we are all volunteers, we started sending out emails to get our minimum number of people,” the club said. “As word of mouth spread, we found that the majority of people who joined were community members who had heard, not our friends as others might have believed. This was not a private effort to keep people out.”
They also pointed out they worked with Ward 21 councillor Joe Mihevc to organize a March 27 community meeting and to post some notices at the tennis court.
“As private citizens we simply didn’t have the time or money to buy ads or go door to door in the entire ward,” they said.
Advocates for Cedarvale Park also posted notices alerting users of the courts about the proposed changes.
Mihevc said in his meetings with the club he did not perceive any effort to keep the club private.
“They were open to new members up to the current moment and for the rest of the year,” he said. “So from my vantage point there was no attempt to close off membership.”
The Cedarvale Tennis Academy and Club says their intention was to create a stable schedule for the tennis courts, ensure maintenance and bring the community together. They said they hope it will come to fruition another year.
Chopik said the issue galvanized him not because he’s a die-hard tennis fan, but because it fundamentally revolves around the issue of equality.
“Frankly I’d probably become a member of the club,” he said. “For me, $80 a year is not a problem. But for some people it is.”
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