The search for a Sally Frank Farmers' Market location in Melrose that's convenient, safe for vendors and patrons, and doesn't disturb the neighbors continues.
On Tuesday night, the Melrose Park Commission shot down a proposal for the market—which currently operates behind City Hall on Thursdays—to operate this coming season at Mary Foley Park, across from St. Mary's School at the intersection of Grove and Myrtle Streets.
Joan Bell, Superintendent of Mount Hood and Public Open Space, said that "quite a few" nearby business owners and residents showed up for the meeting.
"It's not that they were dead set against it," Bell said. "I think it was more of a concern with the hours, as far as kids getting out of school, the businesses ... they were just concerned that there’s so much overcrowding down there now, and with the new businesses and the bank, they felt it was going to be way too crowded, especially during the three months that school is still in session (and the market is operating)."
Market co-organizer Renee Tennison called the Commission's decision a "devastating blow.
"We were really sold on Mary Foley Park," Tennis said. "There were public restrooms nearby we could use; there wasn’t power but we were going to make that concession; and plenty of municipal parking. There was obviously some dissension amongst the neighboring businesses."
The market plans to expand its hours this season. In past years, the market ran from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Thursdays and last year, it introduced new weekly Friday night sessions from 3-7 p.m., catering to working Melrosians who couldn't make it to the market during the day on Thursday and also allowing the market to expand its offerings to art, music, and a free film screening.
Tennison said this season, they plan for the market to combine the two days and run only on Thursdays from 2-7 p.m. She and co-organizer Heather Macdonald are looking to move from behind City Hall due to safety reasons—traffic in and out of the busy parking lot creates a hazard, especially for patrons with young children—amongst other practical reasons.
"There's the cleanliness issue of the parking lot on the morning of the market—the things we’re finding in that parking lot have been atrocious and, really, a safety concern for people to clean up," Tennison said. "Also, it’s hot top, it’s hard to maintain temperatures. We’re looking at people who need some refrigeration for our vendors, and it’s difficult to do that."
Last year, when starting the Friday night sessions, Tennison and Macdonald originally looked to The Knoll, but between parking for Melrose High School students and youth sports leagues holding games on the fields, that option was ruled out.
The Friday night sessions ultimately started at First United Methodist Church on Main Street, but Tennison said as a non-profit, the market can't afford much in rent on top of its other overhead costs, such as liability insurance. They also hope to start accepting food stamps this season.
"That’s limiting our location too," she said.
The former has problems with limited parking—a concern voiced by nearby businesses—goose droppings that would be unsanitary for a farmers' market, and a "very angry swan fighting anything going near the lake at this point," Tennison said with a laugh.
Cedar Park does have plenty of parking, Tennison said, and a proposed move there elicited some positive reaction to businesses in the area. However, at that location the market would deal with drainage problems, no electricity and a lack of nearby public restroom facilities.
"We’ll see about that; however at this point, we’re not sure where we want to progress," she said.
Bell said the Park Commission is open to hearing another pitch from the market's organizers.
"What the Park Commission did was they denied the Mary Foley Park location and asked them if they had other areas they were interested in looking at," she said. "We‘d have to do the same process—flag and inform the neighbors, and then hold the public meeting."