This man keeps the ping pong ball bouncing, but city isn’t helping much

Roger Smith with some of the paddles and ping pong balls that were damaged by players at Lytton Plaza in Palo Alto. Post photo.

BY SARA TABIN
Daily Post Staff Writer

Many Palo Alto residents enjoy playing ping-pong downtown at Lytton Plaza, but they may not realize that the city doesn’t pay to keep balls and paddles available.

Resident Roger Smith has taken it upon himself to replace missing or damaged supplies several times a week for the past year since the city won’t do it.

Smith estimated he spends about $200 a month on supplies. Smith said he is annoyed by people who intentionally ruin balls by pressing on them with their thumbs.
City spokeswoman Meghan Horrigan-Taylor said that after the original tables were donated to the city last June, the city’s Community Services Department provided a starter supply of paddles and balls and replaced them for the first few months.

She did not say why the city stopped replacing the paddles and balls.

Horrigan-Taylor said the balls and paddles don’t need to be replaced right now because shared sporting equipment between people who aren’t in the same household isn’t allowed under the Santa Clara County Public Health Order.

She said people can bring their own equipment and play with other members of their households.

A member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission is looking for “outside funding” for the paddles and balls, and the city has gotten some donations of the ping pong gear, said Horrigan-Taylor.

She added that once the county’s stay-at-home order ends, the city will keep looking to get funding to keep a supply of balls and paddles.

“Once the shelter-in-place is lifted, we will continue to seek funding to keep a supply available for public use,” said Horrigan-Taylor.

Until the city finds $200 a month to spare, the task of replacing the equipment will presumably keep falling to Smith.

He started his ping-pong project because the city told him they lacked the funds to keep up with supplies for the tables.

“It warms my heart when I see families playing or people playing,” he said. “We have those nice new tables … to me if you have ping-pong tables you don’t want them to just be idle.”

Smith said he orders new equipment online and brings it downtown about three times a week. When he isn’t in town he has a friend deliver the good for him.

This isn’t the first time Smith has gotten involved with Palo Alto recreation. He started the Friends of Palo Alto Parks 14 years ago with his wife and has since supported renovations at Lytton Plaza and Heritage Park.

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