A major piece of planning was completed when PARC adopted a 20-year strategy for Centennial Park last week.
The plan begins with a new washroom facility that should be ready by next spring, and includes a different performance area, moving of the Cenotaph within the park and other changes.
Starting and finishing the plan within about a year was an impressive feat and, despite some initial misgivings about messing with a functional public space, the end vision appears to be an improvement. As well, with the work being undertaken in phases as funds become available, it should not be a stress on taxpayers.
Not surprisingly, though, the plan does not address what to do about the Saturday market and, specifically, the high demand for vendor space. It’s just a much bigger issue that needs broader community input.
An immediate problem of market crowding and concern about vendors gaining access to valuable turf through a farming definition “loophole” was dealt with efficiently through a Market Advisory Group recommendation to PARC late last year. It saw a 2,500-square-foot cap put on the space allotted for farmers’ tables in the market, a more formal definition of “farmer” applied, and a few other rule changes.
But concerns about the cap and the way farmers have been narrowly defined have been expressed by some members of Salt Spring’s agricultural community, and it’s safe to say those feelings of discontent will continue for some time.
In this week’s Driftwood, Michael Ableman of Foxglove Farm on Mount Maxwell Road, who has decades of experience with farming and selling his produce here and elsewhere, weighs in with a guest column detailing the Saturday market’s challenges for farmers, other vendors and customers. He suggests engaging the services of an independent consultant with specialized experience in designing farmers markets to evaluate Salt Spring’s situation and suggest some solutions.
Salt Spring’s market has become so important — culturally and economically — to the island, and may well have grown beyond Centennial Park and Gasoline Alley. In order to thrive, it certainly needs more than stop-gap measures or tweaking, and an outside expert’s view should be welcomed.