News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Jun 7, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck
In light of recent debate, a trial run at City Park could be worth a try
Organizers and participants in the Wednesday afternoon farmers market in downtown Riverton have good reason to be proud of their accomplishments.
The farmers market had a good debut summer last year and got off to another good start with Wednesday afternoon's opener this week.
Inevitably, however, any new event or activity comes under some scrutiny, and that has happened with the farmers market. Specifically, some business owners in the immediate vicinity of the market's North Broadway Avenue location have spoken of their preference that the weekly gathering of local food vendors and others be moved to another area.
The discussion went so far as to appear as an agenda item before the Riverton City Council not long ago. There was a lively debate on whether the market should be moved.
Obviously, the farmers market disrupts vehicular and, to an extent, pedestrian traffic patterns in downtown Riverton on Wednesday afternoons. That in itself is not reason enough to relocate it. Events such as the farmers market, which might generally be classified as "street festivals," actually are intended to alter traffic to a point. They are supposed to be something different, something new, something out of the ordinary, something that gets noticed by people who otherwise would drive by the familiar Main Street and Broadway Avenue intersection without a second glance. That is how they fulfill the revitalizing function that is their great promise.
The point that the business people make is that the farmers market does more than interrupt traffic. It interrupts business at their establishments and costs them money. Delivery trucks can't get through to their normal unloading points. Customers can't park in their accustomed places. People who might be thinking of dropping into a store for a look around or quick purchase could tend to think otherwise when they see the blocked street and the crowd.
Another complaint is that small businesses and offices with limited restroom facilities aren't equipped to deal with the farmers market crowd, yet are frowned upon if they refuse access to their facilities.
As is the case with many issues of local government, both sides make good points. Is the farmers market a vital and treasured part of downtown Riverton's civic and business climate? Or is it a nuisance that actually damages permanent and much more well- and long-established businesses that can't pick up and move on short notice?
In truth, the farmers market is a bit of both, but all probably would agree that it has been a nice success in its early stages. And no one, to our knowledge, has said word one about canceling the farmers market based on these business concerns.
Rather, the discussion has centered on whether there might be a different location for the event that could continue to draw a crowd while not disrupting businesses nearby.
That topic was the focus of the city council discourse a few days ago. One suggestion was to move the farmers markets to Riverton City Park, which could do with some revitalization of its own.
Backers of the farmers market raised objections to that idea, and they make sense. Others who have hoped for the revival of City Park also presented a good case for relocation.
For the time being, the farmers market will remain at its original location. That decision came by vote of the council.
Here's an idea: Try the farmers market at City Park once this summer, and see how it goes.
See if it could continue to attract attention, not just from pre-planned visitors but also from passersby who see it, are curious, and drop by just for the fun of it.
See if the vendors have the financial success at the park that they would've expected at the Broadway location.
See if the vagrancy issues that trouble some park users become a factor at the new location.
The concerned parties all have their opinions about moving the farmers market, but no one really knows what the effect would be. It is entirely possible that changing the still new, but established, dynamic of the farmers market on North Broadway would undermine or bring a setback to the progress of this fine event. But by no means is it out of the question that the market could find success in the park.
It's a short season in Wyoming for farmers markets, and vendors are not to be blamed for their reluctance to tamper with a winning formula.
But in the interest of the continued success of the farmers market, as well as maintaining good relations with the permanent downtown business neighbors, a one-time trial of a new location is worth a try.