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Pickleball players in DeWitt who have been looking to expand the sport and its facilities in town recently received some great news.

The Wellmark Foundation approved the DeWitt Parks and Recreation Department’s request for a $25,000 Small MATCH (Matching Assets to Community Health) Grant for the proposed six outdoor pickleball courts.

The grant is awarded to organizations that can help individuals, families and communities achieve better health through built environment initiatives that encourage physical activity or access to nutritious foods.

The DeWitt Pickleball Club is undertaking a project to construct six outdoor pickleball courts on a parcel of land owned by the city of DeWitt. A site has not yet been selected, but the city has explored a few options. 

The project will include engineering and land preparation, concrete court decking with acrylic surfacing, gates, fencing with windscreens, lighting for evening play and security, and benches.

DeWitt is one of 29 organizations in Iowa to receive the matching grant.

The project got an initial boost last spring, when Robert “Bud” Johnson, of Monticello, offered to donate $20,000 to the project.

Johnson, an avid pickleball player since 2018, has a connection with Clinton County 4-H groups and DeWitt via former Central DeWitt High School ag instructor and FFA advisor Dan Smicker. 

Johnson’s business, MinnTex Citrus, has supplied fruit for the 4-H and FFA fruit sales for many years.

His goal is to help build 10 pickleball courts in eastern Iowa in 2021 and 2022. He is targeting communities with a population of under 10,000; smaller communities that typically have more trouble completing larger-scale projects.

Aquatic Center usage increased in 2021

 In other parks and recreation news, DeWitt Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Lake said looking back on the 2021 swim season — and an overview of seasons dating back to 2014 — the popularity of private swimming lessons is on the rise.

Aquatic center manager Penny Jacobi presented a report to the DeWitt Parks and Recreation Commission outlining the types of swimming lessons — group, Daffy Dolphin, private and parent-tot — and the number of participants year to year.

Each year, the number of children being registered for private lessons increases: in 2014, the number of swimmers taught in private lessons was 277. 

That number grew to 355 in 2015; 430 in 2016; 465 in 2017, 529 in 2018; 540 in 2019; made a big leap to 1,232 in 2020, likely because of COVID and parents wanting to keep their children out of group activities; and back down to 716 in 2021.

Lake said he and Jacobi will do everything possible to offer enough private lessons to meet the growing demand.

“It’s a definite trend,” Lake noted. “We’re going to continue to serve those people as best we can. We will continue to add more lessons where we can.”

He also said that group lesson numbers still are strong, proving that there still is merit to the social benefits that group activities provide young swimmers. However, group lessons are two weeks in length, as opposed to one week for private instruction. Lake said some families’ schedules don’t allow for as much time to dedicate to lessons.

Mother-Son Night back

After a one-year hiatus due to COVID, mother-son date night is back.

Registration is online only, at parks.cityofdewittiowa.org. 

Mothers and their sons, who must be at least 5 years of age as of Nov. 8, 2020, can enjoy dinner and a movie Monday, Nov. 8. A buffet dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m. by Hall of Fame Pizza & Wings, consisting of salad, pizza, wings and dessert pizza at the community center.

Dinner will be followed by a family movie at the Operahouse Theatre. Each person will receive one small pop and popcorn. The movie will start at 6:45 p.m.

Cost is $30 per couple, and $5 for each additional son. There will be a minimum of 40 couples and maximum of 200 individuals welcome. Registration is open until capacity is reached.