Sunday, December 10, 2023
December 10, 2023

Market opening plan uncertain

Plans to reopen Salt Spring’s Market in the Park sometime in July have hit a snag, with the departure of long-time coordinator Rob Pingle leaving a crucial role open.

Salt Spring Parks and Recreation manager Dan Ovington reported Monday that Pingle would be moving on to a new on-island opportunity after 12 years of managing the market for the Capital Regional District.

“We want to thank Rob for all the hard work he’s done over the years working closely with the CRD, with our vendors and our visitors, and all our stakeholders in the downtown core,” Ovington said.

Pingle was not available for comment prior to the Driftwood’s press deadline.

The Salt Spring Parks and Recreation Commission decided only last Tuesday to bring a limited version of the market back to Centennial Park, with start-up hopefully in mid July. Ovington said PARC will now have to post an expression of interest for the coordinator position and then go through the hiring and training process, which could push back the opening date.

Parks staff surveyed market vendors earlier this month to see whether there was enough interest to consider reopening after provincial health orders changed to allow crafts and other goods to be sold at markets along with farmers’ produce. Vendors were also asked whether they would support moving to another location outside of Centennial Park and if they would support a different market day than Saturday.

Based on those responses, staff recommended the market stay in its usual venue, but found Centennial Park was not large enough to implement safe distancing controls with full vendor capacity. A two-day operation with a maximum 50 vendors per day was recommended to take place on Thursdays and Fridays at first.

Vendors demonstrated a marked preference for the original day of Saturday in the consultation period.

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“The market has to stay on Saturday,” market vendor and advisory committee member Bree Eagle stated in an email. “We rely on tourists. They account for the vast majority of sales. Without them, there’s no reason to hold the market at all.”

Commissioners and staff said they would like to see the market eventually return to Saturdays as well. The days and mode of operation could change depending on how the community reacts and how the COVID-19 situation changes over the summer. To begin, though, the group wants to see how the test model works.

“I think it’s very important to proceed cautiously to protect our community,” said PARC chair Sonja Collombin. “Everyone who lives in the community is going to be affected by this decision.”

Salt Spring Capital Regional District director Gary Holman said that even though vendors would prefer the Saturday date, he did not believe the rest of the community feels the same way. He spoke against a suggestion from staff to refer the matter back to the market advisory group for comment.

“The policy directive is still ‘proceed with caution.’ That’s the advice we’re getting from the provincial health officer,” Holman said.

In addition to the hiring process, Ovington said parks staff will need to develop a safety plan based on WorkSafeBC guidelines and it will need to be approved by the CRD’s operational health and safety department. Parks staff also hope to work with the Ganges Alley owners on sharing parking lot space on days outside their regular Saturday agreement.

Ovington said Monday the feedback he’s received from vendors since PARC made its decision has been largely positive. Anyone who would like to provide an official comment should email


  1. It should not necessitate further delays. Rob Pingle isn’t involved with the market in the latter part of the year – what we here in Canada’s banana belt call Winter 🙂 There will be less vendors and all with this Summer’s configuration, and they are veterans – some have been doing this for 30 – 40 years. They can figure out what’s needed based upon the guidelines published by Bonnie/Dr. Henry and the BC gov website for public/farmers markets. These are operating safely and happily across our province for weeks now. Salt Spring is as capable as other towns and communities. The lag we’ve witnessed here is something we need move beyond.

  2. The CRD/Parc should have been planning well before the end of June-for a safe Saturday Market. Other jurisdictions:Vancouver,Victoria and Nelson have been operating since May. Leaving the planning of the Saturday Market to the end of June is lame and works to their anti-tourist agenda.CRD employees and staff gets paid but vendors don’t have an opportunity for income- now that the ball was intentionally dropped by the CRD.

  3. Apparently even the Market Advisory Group (MAG) has NOT been provided the market survey results by PARC/CRD. So, how can meaningful decisions and advising happen? What sort of process happens without including and informing those most directly involved? The MAG needs to be provided the survey results so that they know how many vendors to plan for etc. – and, why not let us, the public, also know what’s going on with our island institutions and activities?

  4. Moss Street Market (in Vic) is an helpful guide – as other other markets across BC, both, larger and smaller than our own Satuday Market here on SSI. Victoria, Vancouver, Burnaby, Duncan, Errington, Gabriola, Courtenay, Qualicum Beach, Gold Stream, North Saanich, Sooke, Nanaimo, Pender Island, Port Hardy, Port McNeill, Squamish, White Rock, and, literally, dozens more communities all over BC have been able to adapt to the government’s safe re-starting guidelines and we can do so here as well.

    Off the top, we can look at Moss Street Market in a rough tally – it has a mix of elements when considering its 2020 roster:

    Moss Street Market

    27 – Farm Vendors
    42 – food vendors
    10 – beer + wine vendors
    69 – Craft and Artisan vendors
    4 – Services vendors (tattoo, massage+)
    152 Vendors Total

    18 – Community Education Groups tables/booths
    & rotating musicians

    + 170+ TOTAL

    With its 16% of vendors comprised of farmers, and the rest as listed above, the last economic impact study conducted noted: “Moss Street Market is one of the most highly-attended farmers’ markets in the province, seeing on average more than 1,000 customers each hour the market is open” and it’s only become more popular since that account.

    I don’t know of any similar studies here, still, 1000 people per hour sounds as, or considerably more, busy as our SSI Saturday Market. And there are other, more highly-attended markets in BC. They can do it, so can we 🙂

    What’s essential is for PARC/CRD to release the SSI Saturday Market Survey results to the Market Advisory Group (MAG) so that real planning and prep can be conducted with the knowledge of who is participating here. We know a number of vendors are not returning, for a variety of reasons, but as long as PARC/CRD with-holds this key data – any talk they utter is only something we can view as an article of faith. Releasing the full survey results to the public would be abother beneficial step. At a bare minimum, though, the MAG must be provided this info so things can be done the best possible way as in other communities.

  5. Saturday market cannot change its day. Its name itself explains why.
    Each vendor should get to be part of the market every other Saturday. It is the only answer.

  6. Positive news! The Market Advisory Group has, apparently, accessed (hopefully all) the survey results. They’ll know how best to proceed. Unless I misunderstand, there’s only 70 vendors that are going to participate in the Saturday Market this Summer, based on responses to the survey. This simplifies space and other logistical issues. Salt Spring appears more capable than ever of following communities in Vancouver, Burnaby, Duncan, Errington, Gabriola, Courtenay, Qualicum Beach, Gold Stream, North Saanich, Sooke, Nanaimo, Pender Island, Port Hardy, Port McNeill, Squamish, White Rock and others across BC in celebrating our island’s fine produce, art and more 🙂

  7. As tourists we are coming to SSI for several reasons: 1. Relax 2. Enjoy hiking 3. Enjoy, as customers, the Saturday market. No market means fewer tourists; less revenues for all businesses.

    The Moss Street market has opened, spacing didn’t appear to be rocket science, just a bit of organizing! Without the market, Saltspring will have lost a key attraction and revenue source. Find a good-sized field, spread out, open up and let us tourists know where you are … we’ll be there! Whats so difficult eh? Dr Henry’s guidelines can’t be so hard to navigate! We’re rooting for you; we want you to succeed!

  8. Gary Holman’s now confirmed that, contrary to what he indicated last week, Bonnie/Dr. Henry and team have NOT capped BC markets at 50 vendors. As noted previously, there are no such caps imposed by the BC gov on “episodic vending markets” – what most of us call public/farmers markets. The orders etc. for “mass gatherings” that impose a cap do not apply to markets. What is now being stated is that Dan Ovington of PARC has created a cap of 50 – based on information as yet not disclosed. So, that is now the question I’ve asked Gary – what’s the basis, the physical measurements, layout, configuration and vendor numbers etc. being used by PARC to come up with its position. Ideally, this is what the MAG and PARC/CRD folks would have been working on together back in May-or-so, and all would be in place before Rob Pingle’s departure. it is what it is, of course, and, at least we have last week’s question now answered – and move ahead to the next.

  9. To better understand how Markets operate under existing BC gov orders and guidelines, I wrote to the BCCDC and Moss Street Market folks – and received a reply the essential part of which is this:

    “There is no maximum on a farmers market’s numbers. You can read a lot about our requirements on the BC Association of Farmers Market’s website, here. Notably, farmers markets are not ‘events’. So the 50 person limit does not apply. Our requirement is to limit access to allow for physical distancing. How many people that is depends on the systems in place and the size of the market.

    Notably, farmers markets are not ‘events’. So the 50 person limit does not apply. Our requirement is to limit access to allow for physical distancing. How many people that is depends on the systems in place and the size of the market.”

    and the page they’ve linked to notes:

    Farmers’ markets have been declared an essential service by the BC government (March 26, 2020). Share this press release.
    Farmers’ markets are allowed to sell both food and non-food vendor products (May 28, 2020). Share the BCCDC farmers’ market webpage.


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