Parking Issue at the Thornbury Farmers’ Market discourages vendors and visitors

To the Editor:
This is an open letter to the Town of Blue Mountains Mayor and Council,
The issue:
Bylaw enforcement officers have descended upon vehicles parked at the Thornbury Farmers’ Market and have issued parking tickets for the last two weekends to several vendors parked in the municipal lots during market hours.
When asked why vendors’ cars were targeted, Director of Community Services Ryan Gibbons pointed to the letter of the agreement between the Township and the farmers’ market. While the parking fees are indeed mentioned in the agreement and appear as early as 2021 when the parking fees pilot project was announced, it was never our assumption that vendors would be the target of bylaw enforcement.
It seems obvious that this enforcement self-defeats economic development and flies in the face of permission that has been granted to the farmers’ market for the use of municipal property every Sunday from 10am – 2pm, May to October. After all, every vendor needs to park somewhere during the market and the park grounds cannot support vehicular traffic on the grass. This should have been a consideration.
Following the lead of many other farmers’ markets in Ontario who have made arrangements with municipal staff when faced with similar parking issues, we suggested that we could submit a master list of vendors, so that they can be issued parking passes, thus avoiding an additional parking fee during market hours. However, Ryan has declined to work with us to find a solution. “Only Council can amend the fees and charges.”
We don’t believe that the original intent of the parking fees pilot was to drive the Thornbury Farmers’ Market out of business or to halt it as an economic and tourism driver for the community. But in actual fact, the enforcement of this bylaw on market vendors is detrimental to the market’s survival and has confused and angered some of our vendors, whose trust in our municipal landlords has now been shaken.
Customers too, are also weighing in on the $10 parking fee, indicating they will no longer come to the market due to the cost, citing the Collingwood Farmers’ Market where free parking on the weekends allows customers to freely come and go and keep the numbers high. Also, our vendors often attend many other markets and have shared with us, that Thornbury’s Market is the only one where parking is not free.
Why it is important:
The Thornbury Farmers’ Market is a member of Farmers’ Markets Ontario (FMO) who have a long history in this province of advocation for local farmers’ markets, providing resources and support for markets and communities across the province. Here is what their research has uncovered:
“For every dollar spent at the market, another two dollars ripple through the provincial economy. In Ontario alone, sales at farmers’ markets total almost $600 million, leading to an economic impact of an astounding $1.8 billion.
For every one person you see working at the market, another two are busy at work back on the farm. As many as 27,000 people in Ontario are directly involved in preparing and selling the products you find at the market.
Farmers’ Markets are good for other businesses too. Up to 70% of market-goers visit neighbouring businesses on their way to and from the market.
Just as each new season brings forth a fresh bounty of harvest, farmers’ markets continue to encourage new businesses. Young and old entrepreneurs alike find markets a great place to start their own enterprise because of the low overhead. Some of these endeavours will grow into store-front businesses of their own.”
The solution:
When informed of vendor parking enforcement issue, Catherine Clark, Executive Director of Farmers’ Markets Ontario, gave this response:
“It is unfortunate that the municipality did not plan or consider the consequences of parking tickets issued to the farmers’ market vendors.
Here is an example of municipal co-operation and understanding of the economic impact of farmers’ markets in their jurisdiction:
We have been operating the East Lynn Park Farmers’ Market since 2008 and the City of Toronto Parks and Recreation will issue free “Vendor Permit Pass” to individual  vendors, volunteers and manager. The master list is submitted in advance and the passes are time stamped first and last day of market.
Farmers’ Markets Ontario support (the Thornbury Farmers’ Market’s) approach to Council requesting an exemption for approved market vendors, volunteers and manager.”
On June 19, Market Manager Elora Tarlo will provide a delegation to Council. We would like Council to follow the example of the East Lynn Park Farmers’ Market and their successful relationship with the City of Toronto Parks and Recreation Department.
“We ask that Council direct Township staff to issue free parking passes to a master list of Thornbury Farmers’ Market vendors, volunteers and managers which we will gladly supply, so that they we can continue to operate unencumbered by this issue and keep this market as a valuable community asset for now and many years to come.
We also ask that any tickets already issued to market vendors during market hours in 2023 be rescinded.”