Salt Spring Market in the Park to resurface on alternative days
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.