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Sunday, May 26, 2024

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Stone Harbor Residents Object to Pickleball, Recreation Fees

according to a Jan. 25 release. The township has scheduled an official ribbon cutting Jan. 29.

By Vince Conti

STONE HARBOR – Stone Harbor Council May 3 unanimously adopted a resolution setting recreation program fees for 2022. The most controversial change in the fee scale was the movement of a summer pickleball membership from $80, in 2021, to $250.
There was discussion of the change at the May 3 work session, with most council members initially expressing some concern about so large a jump in one year. The argument for the member fee change was to stop the need for borough taxpayers having to cover an annual deficit. The fee level at $80, while still higher than similar membership fees in Avalon, Sea Isle City, and Ocean City, was considered significantly underpriced for the levels of service, staffing, and maintenance of facilities.
The underlying price increase for drop-in during the popular morning open play period was raised from $3 to $5. The Recreation Department presented the new summer membership fee as a way to give a discount to people who play every day who otherwise would be paying $5 each time, adding to as much as $450 for a summer of regular daily play.
The council debated the wisdom of so large a jump in one year, with Mayor Judith Davies-Dunhour suggesting raising the price to be equivalent to tennis membership at $175, which would still be significantly higher than neighboring towns. In the end, the council voted to accept the Recreation Department proposal of $250.
At the May 25 council meeting, many regular pickleball players used public comment to castigate the council for the sudden and dramatic rise in the fees. Davies-Dunhour said the borough had also received 15 letters of opposition to the new fee scale. One after another, residents took to the podium at the meeting to argue that the council had made a grievous error with the new fee for summer membership.
Some speakers even suggested that they would rather leave Stone Harbor to play elsewhere than pay the new fee.
To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com.

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