Salt Spring Market in the Park to resurface on alternative days

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Salt Spring’s legendary Market in the Park is likely returning to downtown Ganges sometime in July, but the homegrown craft and food emporium won’t look the same and won’t be appearing in its usual Saturday time slot for now.

The Salt Spring Parks and Recreation Commission voted Tuesday to reopen a limited market that respects distancing rules and spreads vendors between two market days, to take place initially on Thursdays and Fridays with a maximum of 50 vendors per day.

The event is being held “for purposes of public consultation,” said PARC. The days and mode of operation could change depending on how the community reacts and how the COVID-19 situation changes over the summer, but a shift back to Saturday is the eventual goal.

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

The market offsets approximately 20 per cent of the operating costs for Centennial Park. Staff have estimated that its total closure in 2020 would result in a $22,968 operating deficit. Reopening the market in a limited capacity would reduce the deficit, although the projected budget shortfall won’t be recovered.

Parks staff surveyed market vendors earlier this month to see whether there was enough interest to consider reopening. 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. Of the 125 vendors who responded (a 50 per cent participation rate), 70 people said they would definitely like to get back to business. Only 25 supported a different venue and just 22 were positively interested in a different day.

Alvaro Sanchez, a longtime vendor who represents jewellery makers on PARC’s Market Advisory Group, submitted a letter explaining why he felt the market should stick to Saturdays when people are visiting the island.

“Most of the income for vendors comes from tourists so it makes more sense to have a market when the tourists are here,” Sanchez wrote. “A few years ago we tried having markets Fridays and Sundays on long weekends and it was a failure.”

“The market is a lot of work for organizers as well as for vendors,” he added. “I think that if we are going to make the effort we should aim for success and have a market that rewards vendors in proportion to their effort.”

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.

“Just because there are tourists here that doesn’t necessarily mean we want to attract more,” Holman said. “The policy directive is still ‘proceed with caution.’ That’s the advice we’re getting from the provincial health officer.”

Parks manager Dan Ovington said that staff have already consulted with stakeholders, including partners, businesses and downtown neighbours. Members of the public will have the opportunity to provide feedback when the Thursday-Friday markets start up.

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

Market vendors will be assigned to either Thursday or Friday based on preference and according to their seniority.

20 Comments
  1. shelley mahoney says

    Typical CRD nonsense. 50 per cent of vendors did not respond and only 22 per cent of half the vendors said okay to another day. This could mess with CERB qualification for vendors as well.

  2. Eileen says

    How is having 50 vendors per day keeping within the guidelines of no more than 50 people in a gathering?

    1. Adrian says

      Apples and oranges, Or, in our part of the world, apples and baby beets 🙂 All the info you’ll ever want to know about BC’s outdoor public / farmer’s markets guidelines and more you can find on the gov site @ http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/community-settings/farmers-markets Saturday markets have been operating safely and happily across the province for weeks now. Great to see Salt Spring finally getting with the program – albeit more slowly that the health rules require and not in keeping with the reasonable requests of those who make our market what it is. Hopefully that will come before long. Moss Street Market and the James Bay Public Market in Vic are both happening Saturdays, full regular hours. There’s no reason that we on Salt Spring are incapable of functioning just as well.

  3. Daniel says

    What about if the “CRD” starts thinking more about the vendors (people) that make this Saturday Market happening. It’s been done before, Saturday is the day that works for us. Like pawns in a chess game, deficit is more important for the “guys” above.

  4. Adrian says

    Have the Saturday market on Saturday. There’s no reasonable explanation provided for the alternatives – just assumptions that we in the community agree with this nonsense. This is just daft and embarrassing.

  5. Sandra says says

    The Moss Street Market in Victoria has been up and running well before this poorly established, late-to-the-game terrible idea that will curtail people’s income even more while the CRD get its full pay.

  6. Alf Rose says

    It’s amazing to see all that beautiful produce later in the summer at the many produce stalls. Farming is a dedication and labour of love. Back breaking work and no sick pay, no paid holidays, no days off, etc.
    Organic farming must be especially difficult without the use of cancer-causing pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc. Dealing with many different kinds of caterpillars and insects, slugs and snails, starlings, deer, rabbits, rats, mice, crows and racoons that like corn, bad weather, “weeds,” lack of water in dry years and competition from mega farms makes one appreciate the dedication involved.
    Also, thanks to the restaurants and retailers that have local produce on their shelves and to the temporary foreign workers and others from different parts of Canada that come here to work in the summer.

  7. Adrian says

    ps. As noted, it’s daft not to have the Saturday market on Saturdays. Locals and visitors know that’s market day – and they can come into town or avoid it. Those of us who are seniors (that includes me) and/or with underlying conditions (that includes me) simply need take care and go where we are comfortable.

    We can’t be selfish and deny the 200-or-so island families/households who rely on their Saturday market to feed themselves and family. And we can’t deny the many more islanders who partake and whose health and lives are enriched as well. Nor should we be so short-sighted as to have an anti-tourism agenda.

  8. Tony says

    Politicians and bureaucrats are paid to stymie and thwart the human spirit to innovate and thrive. We definitely have our share of them here.

  9. Sam says

    This does not appear to be well thought out for a second and the parks and rec group are not qualified to come up with a proposal that falls within provincial guidelines obviously; this proposal is a great example of that.

  10. Darlène Lane says

    I have been in the market for 27 years.
    Saturday only for me. I have paid in January each year and want my own spot. I am dependable and an asset to the market.
    Having been at it this long I think it is fair that l would have first choice.
    Darlène Lane. frenchcountryfabrics@shaw.ca

    1. Adrian says

      Saturday markets have been open safely and enjoyably across the province for weeks. You may know, Moss Street Market – https://www.mossstreetmarket.com/ happens on Saturdays – regular hours, and the James Bay Public Market – https://www.jamesbaymarket.com/ is on Saturday, also regular hours. Whoever makes decisions for Salt Spring’s Saturday Market should look at the bigger picture. We are capable of meeting all the guidelines and should not be so disenfranchised. Many of us in the community want you who make the market so special to be allowed to keep so doing!

  11. Toby Fouks says

    This ideas is ludicrous. The heart of the market and their needs — the vendors — are completely ignored. The assumptions are groundless as well, and the commission is deaf to the one sensible voice of experience — Alvaro. Aside from the fact that a skeletonized market would not be appealing either to vendors or visitors, the issue of social distances is absent. Vendors can easily be six feet from each other but it’s impossible for most vendors to keep a social distance from buyers. As Alvaro pointed out, most buyers come from off our island. Visitors, unless they are looking for produce, are mostly browsing the market, finding things that catch the eye, conversing with the people who have made them . None of this would be possible. People will line up for items they need if social distancing is even feasible, but the market is generally not about need — it’s about appeal. People are not going to stand in line patiently in order to take a closer look at the display. If there must be a market, Saturday is the only day that makes sense. Many vendors would choose not to take part in any case, but a split Thurs/Fri would be, almost undoubtedly, an experiment in failure.

  12. Tony says

    To Driftwood staff – Please post this article on your Facebook page so more will see it and comment. This foolish mistake by unthinking bureaucrats is best served broadly. They have chosen to tear at the core of this Island’s beating heart.

    1. Toby Fouks says

      This article did not appear in the Wednesday paper edition of the Driftwood. I saw it only because a friend sent a link, I presume from an online edition. I suppose the information came too late for print but the digital edition could be manipulated.

      I don’t think the market is at the core of the island’s beating heart but it is certainly an aorta. [I’ve been a vendor for 18 years but I have to give this year a miss even if it’s on a Saturday.] toby

  13. Tony says

    I just hope this isn’t a plank of the re-imagine Salt Spring agenda to limit visitors and to ultimately destroy the Saturday Market and the livelihoods of the hundreds people that rely on it. We’ve been given the go ahead to restart BC and it seems the bureaucrats and politicians are happy to start with a whimper.

    1. Adrian says

      This evening I stumbled upon the page of the CRD’s SSI Electoral Area Director Gary Holman. I was, frankly, gob-smacked to see how disproportionately it’s focused on the negative. There was not positive news about the market re-opening, or the many positive signs and developments we’re experiencing here in BC. Instead it’s geared toward the fear-inducing headlines one gets from America and its media. To represent the full spectrum of our community more balance is needed. I hope all you folks who are the heart and soul of our Saturday Market can help move officialdom into the present reality for the health of all, in myriad ways. Bonnie/Dr. Henry is telling us to re-start, and it’s time.

      1. Dickmeyer says

        I agree. If we are too careful we will never move on.

  14. Toby Fouks says

    I have submitted an opinion piece to the Driftwood on this issue. It will appear in Wednesday’s paper.

  15. Dan Dickmeyer says

    Obviously this plan needs input from ALL the stakeholders. Especially the public. The meeting that determined this was essentially closed to the public because of Covid restrictions. I and many other people have LOTS of good ideas about open days, staggered vendors, safety ideas and perhaps even closing off the street. There are at least two other online places where people will make comments (and sometimes get caustic) but will they find a listening ear with the decision makers??

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