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.
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org.