Editorial: Finding the balance

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As Salt Spring joins the rest of the province in tentatively “opening up,” what to do with the Saturday market brings conflicting views into focus.

Last Tuesday the Salt Spring Parks and Recreation Commission announced it will try organizing a market that would be limited to a maximum of 50 vendors but be held on Thursdays and Fridays rather than on Saturday. The logic is that holding the market on Saturday would attract too many visitors, which would make the general community uncomfortable due to an increased risk in transmission of the coronavirus. Few vendors responding to a survey wanted the market on different days, and they note that a market without many tourists is not worth the trouble.  The question arises from this scenario: Who is the market really for, or mostly designed to benefit? While the Capital Regional District benefits by collecting vendor fees, that income is somewhat offset by increased park maintenance and market management costs. Residents who purchase items from the market and especially fresh farm produce like the market. Tourists obviously enjoy the experience. Other merchants benefit if visitors come to the island specifically for the market and end up spending money elsewhere too.

But the vendors clearly benefit the most. Conversely, they also have the most to lose if a Thursday-Friday experiment is not successful. Beyond time spent on making products, so much work goes into market set-up and take-down, and those CRD fees must be paid regardless of sales made that day. Ultimately it’s the vendors who will determine and decide if shifting from the Saturday norm this year makes any sense at all.

For some people whose livelihoods do not rely on visitors, no tourism may be the only kind of good tourism this year. But shutting down the island is not realistic. We need to find some kind of balance, which PARC is trying to do with the market example.

Island residents need to adjust — as we do every summer anyway — and up our individual safety game with increased precautions of hand-washing, sanitizing and mask use. As islander Neva Hohn suggests in this week’s paper, some kind of prominent signage reminding visitors that all possible COVID-19 safety precautions should be taken is also a good idea.

And through it all, we must heed Dr. Bonnie Henry’s mantra to “Be calm, be kind, be safe.”

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