By GEORGE BURNS, BRUCE GOSLOVICH and KEITH JOHNSON
Your editorial of Sept. 7, 2011, would leave one with the impression that Baker City's one-of-a-kind grass courts are the genesis of controversy that has been continuing over more than a decade. Because the rules have changed considerably since the courts were first built, let's look at the current issues surrounding the controversy.
The editorial rightly points out that there is an existing
conditional-use permit allowing Don McClure, the courts' owner, the
right to play host to tournament play on no more than 22 days per year,
over a maximum of six events. Save the Grass Courts Association (SAGA)
runs these tournaments and in cooperation with Mr. McClure schedules
other private groups for "social play" at the facility. Each spring, as
soon as the tournaments are scheduled the details are posted at our
website, www.bakercitygrasscourts.com, for all to see.
The "social play" events, of which there are few, now have become the
bone of contention to a very small, but vocal, minority of neighbors.
The editorial board apparently listened only to this minority and
totally ignored those in the same proximity to the courts who have no
complaints and recognize the value of this activity to the Baker City
The editorial points out that the city planner asked the courts' owner
to agree to prohibit, or at least restrict, social play on a few
weekends during summer. The Save the Grass Courts Association board of
directors has no problem with some restriction; however, you assume the
neighbors would appreciate such a gesture, and whose authority is it to
negotiate such an agreement and for how long would it be in effect?
Much has changed in the years since Mr. McClure purchased the property.
No longer is overnight camping allowed, parking behind the courts has
been discontinued, there are no more late-night parties or use of
amplifiers, SAGA pays for dust abatement of the road that the neighbors
use every day and lights are used very rarely. Additionally, contrary
to the 10 p.m. restriction on the rest of the Baker City community, we
are allowed use of the lights only until 9 p.m., which during the
summer months virtually is unnecessary anyway. All of this seems not to
have made a difference in the zeal of those who want the courts gone.
Let us address the allegations that tennis players engage in bad
conduct and are disrespectful of the neighbors. None of these
complaints were ever founded in fact. It is laughable to believe that
players in their 50s, 60s and 70s are hooligans! Had the tournament
organizers been made aware of instances of bad behavior, immediate
action would have been taken. A visit to the courts would reveal signs
are posted to encourage courtesy and respect, including observing speed
limits and traffic laws.
Finally, the tennis events bring in significant revenue to the Baker
City businesses. By one conservative estimate grass court players spend
$150,000 per year in the Baker City area in lodging, restaurants and
general shopping. This economic boost happens only in the summer, adds
no pollution and only minimal stress to the city's infrastructure. The
grass courts bring people from all around the Pacific Northwest and
beyond. These are mostly retired folks, eager to experience playing on
grass, visiting a beautiful region and spending money in local
The authors comprise the board of directors for SAGA. Burns and Goslovich are from Boise. Johnson is from Portland.