To the Editor:
The Mattapoisett Community Tennis Association (MCTA) is a public service organization like the Lions Club, Boy Scouts and the Red Cross. We are a nonprofit corporation chartered in Massachusetts in 1999, and registered with the United States Tennis Association (USTA). We have no paid employees – we are all volunteers – and our goal is help all of the people in the community get together to play tennis. Our only income is from donations and a very small membership fee of $15 per year. What we get out this effort is having people to play tennis with since we are all tennis players.
Another public service organization, the Lions Club, raised the money to rebuild and enlarge the four tennis courts at Center School in the early 1970s. It was a huge success. Hundreds of people in the community used and enjoyed the courts. It was the first Golden Age of Tennis. Twenty-five years later, the courts were in need of repair again. But the Lions Club had changed its focus to supporting eye research only, so the MCTA was founded in 1999 for the express purpose of revitalizing the four courts at Center School. The MCTA raised $35,000 and spent $25,000 patching the surface of the four courts, making them playable again in 2001. Then we experienced the second Golden Age of Tennis. The courts were in constant use by the community, the ORR High School tennis team and the MCTA.
As part of the renovation of Center School in 2003-4, a driveway was put in to the back of Center School, cutting two of the four courts in half. The MCTA had submitted an article in Town Meeting in 2000 for the repair of the courts, but received only $4,500 from the Town. So the MCTA used $2,500 of this to have the engineering firm that helped with the design of the school renovation design three courts in 2004 to fit into the remaining area. We have been trying to find a way to fund the construction of these three courts ever since.
This year the Recreation Department was able to obtain a grant of $170,000 from the Community Preservation Act Fund, which is just what is needed to build the three new courts we had designed. But without any consideration of the design we had for three courts, they went ahead with making new plans for just two courts in that area, and tearing up what was left of the courts that had been cut in half, making them into some kind of a public park.
The mainstay of tennis today is drop-in tennis, where players come together at a given time and place to play tennis for an hour and a half. After the two courts had been cut in half in 2004 there were still two courts remaining at Center School. But the MCTA found that we could not organize drop-in tennis on just two courts. So the MCTA has been forced to play in Marion, Wareham and at Old Rochester Regional High School ever since. It is very hard to keep a drop-in tennis program going when we have to move from one place to another during the season.
The Recreation Department, Board of Selectmen, and Town Administrator were well aware of our efforts to rebuild three courts at Center School. We had made presentations to all of the town departments involved with this project for over a 10-year period. When nothing appeared to be happening in response to our efforts, we petitioned an article in Town Meeting in 2010 for $100,000 to rebuild the three courts, and were planning to make up the remaining cost of $20,000 to $30,000. But the article was amended to include only $15,000 from free cash, and failed by 6 votes because it would not have moved the project forward.
The Recreation Department is rushing to get the two-court project started before the people in town can voice their opposition to their plan of reducing the number of tennis courts in that location. The MCTA has asked for a meeting with the Town Administrator, Board of Selectmen and Recreation Chairman to discuss this issue. But they have not responded to our request. It appears that our only option is to call for a special town meeting. The MCTA provides a valuable service to the community at very low cost. We hope that the town officials will begin to work with this public service organization to provide the value that the people in this community deserve. We have been helping the people in this community for 13 years. Now we need your help in convincing the town officials to reconsider their plan for only two courts.
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