Hughes denied in plea to city to let market stay on 24th St.
Long-time Westside advocate Dave Hughes took the city to task over the Farmers Market relocating into Bancroft Park - a move the market had to make to avoid the costs of suddenly applied city regulations if it stayed on 24th Street, where it's operated on summer Saturdays for 25 years.
However, his arguments (which Hughes sent to the mayor, City Council, police chief and parks director) did not change the staff decision. The market will be in the park when it reopens June 8.
City Council President Keith King, whose District 3 includes part of the Westside, looked into the matter but could see no way to change it. “I have asked if there is a waiver process [to the street regulations] and one does not exist,” he states in an e-mail to Hughes. “I do not have a solution to this issue. It would seem to me the only possibility is using the park or the Westside Community Center or a parking lot of a closed business along Colorado Avenue. I understand the frustrations, but I can also see the point that we must keep people safe.”
As it is, the market will be getting a “50 percent price break from the standard fees” to rent the park, according to City Event Coordinator Brianna Goodwin. In an e-mail, she also rebutted Hughes' allegation that the city is not sensitive to the economic well-being of the Westside. “Permit fee waivers have also been granted for community events such as the Pikes Peak Jazz and Swing Society free concerts and the Pikes Peak Blues Society summer series, both at Bancroft Park. The only cost to be billed to these organizers will be electricity, a direct cost to the city, for which a fee of $8 per hour is charged. In addition, this department has recently begun working with the newly formed Old Colorado City Foundation to discuss raising funds through special events for improvements at Bancroft Park. Their first event, Taste of Old Colorado City, received a full waiver of park fees and was extremely successful.”
Regarding her mention of waivers, Hughes noted that no waiver was offered to the market to let it stay in the street.
He thanked King for his efforts, but predicted that the park move will be less profitable for vendors (many of whom travel a long distance to the market) and cause the market to “dwindle away” over time, resulting in the “loss of a 'cherished' Westside tradition.”
He also foresees an earnings reduction for a separate group of vendors who rent space outside the Old Colorado City History Center. Those rental fees provide about a quarter of the annual income to the Old Colorado City Historical Society, according to its treasurer, Susie Schorsch. The income reduction will occur because unlike in the past, when the center was beside the market, there will now be an open street between them, said Hughes, who was one of the society's founders in the 1980s.
Hughes added the point that the society used to rent the park for craft fairs but stopped doing so because “it's too costly to follow City Parks and Police requirements,” including a $1 million insurance demand that's part of city code.
On that subject, Goodwin wrote to Hughes, “As you may be aware, the city has been sued over accidents and injuries at special events, so this insurance is a must.”
The market will be back for the season, starting June 8. According to Frank Schmidt, president of the nonprofit Pikes Peak Farmers Market group, the trucks will park in the same place as they have, along the west side of 24th Street between Colorado and Pikes Peak avenues, except that they will sell out of the opposite side (into the park instead of the street). The market usually has close to 30 vendors in all, and the ones with booths instead of trucks can set up in the park itself, he said.
The Old Colorado City event has been perenially the most successful of the markets organized by his group, Schmidt has previously said.
In a late-April interview, Sgt. Rob Kelley, who handles special events for the Colorado Springs Police Department, told the Westside Pioneer that city street-closure regulations have existed for years, but for unknown reasons were not applied to the Farmers Market until this year when the oversight was “noticed.”
Those regulations would have required Schmidt to hire a barricade company (instead of placing the barricades himself at either end of the block), to hire an off-duty police officer for each barricade and to write up a traffic plan. Schmidt decided to rent the park instead, although he said it's still more expensive than the former street-closure arrangement.
Westside Pioneer article