Farmer’s Market abandons bid for new location at Woodland Station – By Beth Dodd

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Even though project proponents admit it’s not the best site, the popular Woodland Park Farmer’s Market will be held at Vectra Bank again this summer.

Plans to possibly hold the market in a key section of Woodland Station (the former Bergstrom Arena and Saddle Club area) have fallen through in recent weeks. This marks yet another setback for a development area that some local leaders hoped would become the future business anchor of the main downtown core.

The WP Downtown Development Authority was unable to prepare the Woodland Station site, Lot#2, in time for the market to begin in June. Planning for the summer-long event starts in September, and the market managers could wait no longer for action from the DDA.

According to Farmer’s Market Senior Manager Judy Crummett, DDA Director Brian Fleer invited the Farmer’s Market to consider using Woodland Station this past winter. The location at Bergstrom Park and Woodland Station is clearly visible from U.S. Hwy. 24 has lots of room for vendors, and has ample parking. The market’s traditional location on Henrietta Street on the south side of Memorial Park continues to be unavailable due to construction in the park.

At the DDA meeting on April 7, a final decision about whether to allow the Farmer’s Market to use Woodland Station was postponed until April 21. The DDA Board had decided that the site required stabilization and upgrades before it could be used. The project stalled when the board began to discuss what needed be done to prepare the site, how much the proposed improvements would cost, and how much money the DDA could afford to spend.

According to DDA Director Brian Fleer, uncertainty about their budget was a factor in the delay. Although the DDA has plenty of cash in reserve, it was unknown at that time whether or not any upcoming tax abatements might change their anticipated revenue. The DDA is funded by tax revenues, and receives an estimate of its income from the county assessor every year to plan its budget. However, any tax property tax abatements (refunds) that are granted before the end of the year can reduce the DDA’s income.

This spring a large possible abatement was pending, but the county commissioners denied it and the DDA was unaffected. Unfortunately the commissioners’ decision did not happen in time for the DDA board to commit to hosting the Farmer’s Market at Woodland Station. Because they did not want to commit to improving the site without knowing that they could pay for it, the DDA decided that they were unable to host the Market at Woodland Station this year.

The DDA board may still consider improving lot#2 at Woodland Station to prepare for the market or other events in the future. The site needs grading, leveling, erosion control, traffic flow controls, and perhaps a little landscaping. They DDA may consider spending up to $20,000 on the improvements.

“The DDA is in full support of the Farmer’s Market,” said Fleer. “It was just the timing and not knowing about the abatement. The Farmer’s Market has a good future and is well run. We will continue to look at ways to help them in any way that we can.”

“While we appreciate the DDA’s enthusiasm for having the market, the time factor was an issue,” agreed Crummet in a separate interview. “We have to start planning early. Most people don’t really know what it takes to put on an event of this size.”

Planning for this summer’s market is about two months behind because of the delay in finding a location, but Crummett is confident that the preparations will be finished on time, and the market will be unaffected.

When the plan to use Woodland Station fell through, Vectra Bank invited the market back for a second year, although holding the market there had its ups and downs last summer. Ideally, the market would like to have space for 100 vendors, but the Vectra Bank site holds only 84. This means a loss of revenue for the market.

Traffic and parking were also concerns last summer. There were times when market visitors took parking spaces clearly reserved for bank patrons. The noise from the market made it difficult for bank customers at the drive thru windows to hear the tellers. On busy days, the combined traffic from the Farmer’s Market and Our Lady of the Woods Catholic Church tied up West Street.

However, many patrons appreciate the more compact layout of the market at Vectra, which makes it easier to find and visit their favorite vendors. Also, there is a nice compact surface which is good for disabled visitors wanting to explore the market.

“The bank has been wonderful,” said Crummett. “Dale Schnitker (of Vectra Bank) said that it is a community gathering, not just a market, and that it was worth a couple of parking complaints.”

But with this development, the Woodland Station has lost another bid to attract a key user, with questions surrounding the area’s future. The city of Woodland Park pulled out of pursuits to locate the new aquatic center in Woodland Station due to infrastructure costs.

The Woodland Park Summer Farmer’s Market will begin on June 3. It will be held every Friday morning from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. through September. And don’t forget the last Winter Farmer’s Market at the Ute Pass Cultural Center on May 14. Look for asparagus, radishes, and other early greens. For more information, visit the market’s website at www.wpfarmersmarket.com or look for them on Facebook.