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Farmers' Market Move To Mary Foley Park Denied

The Sally Frank Farmers' Market could still ask the Park Commission for permission to operate at another park in the city this coming season, rather than in the parking lot behind City Hall.

The search for a location in Melrose that's convenient, safe for vendors and patrons, and doesn't disturb the neighbors continues.

On Tuesday night, the shot down a proposal for the market—which currently operates behind on Thursdays—to operate this coming season at , across from 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 , 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 , 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 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.

After looking at all the major park options and The Knoll and Mary Foley Park getting ruled out, the two remaining possibilities are , at the gazebo, and , Tennison 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 " 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."

Mary Edwards May 13, 2011 at 03:35 PM
The Farmer's Market is such a boon to the city and the residents--to say nothing of the support such markets offer to Massachusetts farmers--that I can't believe that city leadership plus the Chamber can't come up with a solution to this location issue. If Cedar Park is deemed a good spot, surely the drainage, electricity and restroom problems can't be completely insurmountable?! Mary Edwards
Daniel DeMaina (Editor) May 14, 2011 at 05:37 PM
I wouldn't completely rule out Cedar Park just yet, Mary, although those logistical problems aren't small potatoes. Unfortunately, it seems like the Sally Frank Farmers' Market faces the same issue that all of Melrose's groups and organizations—including the city—run into: there just ain't a lot of space in this 'burg.
CruiseOne May 14, 2011 at 06:35 PM
How about Pine Banks.
Daniel DeMaina (Editor) May 15, 2011 at 04:25 PM
Good question Mike. Pine Banks hasn't come up at all—it wasn't on the Farmers' Market's shortlist. I'll look into that.
Cindy Chabot May 16, 2011 at 12:06 PM
We (the organizers of the Farmer's market) looked at Pine Banks (no due to conflict with the ball fields), Beebe Estste (no due to limited space and lack of parking when the Senior center is open til 4pm), the Knoll (no due to conflict with the school and ball fields), Gazebo (still possible,although at least 2 businesses have voiced concerns, we're aware of the goose droppings and have been made aware of the smells coming off the pond in the spring), Cedar Park (possible, but it may be more out of the way than most people prefer and the other comments mentioned in the article), and Mary Foley Park. We also haven't investigated the Common which we also thought was more out of the way than people prefer.
Daniel DeMaina (Editor) May 16, 2011 at 12:58 PM
Thank you very much for filling us in, Cindy!

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