These run-down Hilton Head public tennis courts could be getting a new look

Only two of four tennis nets are up on town-owned tennis courts near Cordillo Courts, as seen on Oct. 5, 2017.
Only two of four tennis nets are up on town-owned tennis courts near Cordillo Courts, as seen on Oct. 5, 2017. akincaid@islandpacket.com

The cracked, paint-stained public tennis courts near the Cordillo Courts condominiums on Hilton Head might be redeveloped.

At Thursday’s special meeting of the town Parks and Recreation Commission, several recommendations to improve the courts, located on the island’s south end, were unanimously approved, with chairman Michael Ray recusing himself. The recommendations included redeveloping the approximately 1.5-acre area for adult and youth tennis courts and pickleball courts, and creating a community building.

“The plan is conceptual at this point,” Anne Cyran, senior planner for the town, told the commission. Cyran noted the recommendations will go to the Public Facilities Committee and then to Town Council.

James Ackerman, board president of Cordillo Courts, told Town Council last month that the town should clean up the courts or sell it to someone who will. The condominium complex is split by the tennis courts.

But not everyone believes it’s solely the town’s responsibility.

Narendra Sharma, founder and chairman of Neighborhood Outreach Connection, a nonprofit aimed at fighting poverty and improving the quality of life of Beaufort County residents, blames the poor condition of the tennis courts, along with the crime in the area, on property owners at Cordillo Courts. The NOC operates four days a week out of their three condos and have been at Cordillo Courts for more than three years. The organization plans to leave Cordillo Courts in May but has several other locations in the county.

“If we look at the current tennis court, it’s in decline; there’s no question about it,” Sharma said at Thursday’s meeting. “We blame the town for all the problems, but we have created all of the problems in this neighborhood.”

Sharma said over the last 12 to 15 months, the town has made strides in cleaning up the courts. He said he wants the covenants of the town-owned land changed so that the area is not permanently restricted to tennis use. He also said the property owners need to build a playground and create open space for their residents.

“The town should roll up its sleeves and have some tough discussions with these owners,” Sharma said. “Two months ago there was a drug problem right in the building where NOC is located. It had nothing to do with the tennis courts.”

Mayor David Bennett said during the meeting he was not sure the discussion was on track, contending the NOC was not part of the issue.

“These are the only public tennis courts on the south end of the island,” he said, noting more than half of the households near the tennis courts do not have access to transportation. “You talk about having tennis courts up at Chaplin (Park) and elsewhere that are public. But the fact is that individuals who live on this end of the island can’t get there.”

According to Beaufort County property records, the town purchased the courts and surrounding land in 2002 from Dennis Van Der Meer, the founder of Van Der Meer Tennis, for $400,000.