After controversy with its location last year and the Oakdale Tourism and Visitors Bureau withdrawing its sponsorship, the Oakdale City Council on Monday, April 18 approved an application to move the Farmers’ Market back to the downtown area after its brief departure to the Gene Bianchi Community Center plaza last year.
The move comes after an application by Courtney Smith to hold the summer market at its original location on North Third Avenue between F Street and a portion of E Street each Wednesday from May 4 to Sept. 28 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“When we learned the visitors bureau was no longer going to do this I felt the necessity to get involved and not let it die,” said Smith, who took over Bloomingcamp Ranch last year.
Smith told the council that she has established a website to solicit vendors, music acts and get the word out to residents. According to Smith, the website address will be oakdalecafarmersmarket.com.
“I’m glad you stepped up,” Mayor Pat Paul told Smith during the agenda item. “We wouldn’t want it to go away.”
Last year the OTVB made the decision to host the farmers market on both North Third Avenue and to also utilize the plaza area of the Gene Bianchi Community Center on the opposite side of F Street off South Second. However, after the first week of the market, officials made the decision to move it all to the plaza area.
The Community Center move didn’t sit well with local merchants that had benefitted from the increased weeknight foot traffic on Third Avenue and often stayed open longer to accommodate customers.
The merchants became vocal about the shift which they viewed as kowtowing to the craft vendors who were paying for spaces and not the original focus of the market – the produce and food sellers.
Many residents also had concerns with the move, citing parking issues since the parking lot area associated with the community center was being used by vendors. As a result, attendance figures were down from previous years.
During the meeting, the council also approved a number of other issues including a mandatory $70,000 wildlife hazard assessment study requested by the FAA.
The study is needed as a result of plans to install perimeter fencing along the Donnelly Field Airport. Public Services Director Thom Clark said the year-long study will review wildlife behavior and attractants both on the Airport and within a five-mile radius. The FAA will then use the data from the assessment to determine what sort of wildlife mitigation design measure, if any, would be implemented in the perimeter fencing improvements project.
Funding for the fencing project and study comes from the city’s FAA grant funds.