Temporary Cottonwood Market an improvement, vendors say

Most customers and vendors are glad to see the old structures gone.



Despite a storm of public opposition last year, many vendors and customers prefer the new Cottonwood Market without the cedar structures that were there since the 1970s. The City of Nelson tore them down last year to the objection of many vendors and customers.

“I am totally surprised,” vendor Gordon Spankie told the Star at his market booth on Saturday. “I thought the lack of buildings would create a windy dust bowl, but it didn’t. And everyone can see it is connected to a park now.”

Rob Fahie, of the Little Miss Gelato ice cream stand, agreed.

“I was originally disappointed that they were going to tear the structures down because they did it very quickly and without a lot of consultation, but surprisingly when I came on the first day I really liked what I saw. I think they should just improve this area, they should just flatten the whole thing with concrete, distribute power underground, and then just leave it like this.”

But the city, which owns the land, and the West Kootenay Ecosociety, which runs the market, have a new plan to build market structures at a cost of up to $600,000 in a location further east toward the highway and closer to the park. The new structures would include an outdoor performance venue.

The market blends seamlessly with the park. All photos by Bill Metcalfe

This year’s market set-up is temporary, until the new market’s planned opening next summer. But some vendors and customers at the market on Saturday, happy with the temporary market, wondered if the new project is necessary.

Zoe Gariepy, at the Au Soleil Levant Bakery booth (pictured below) told the Star she thinks the temporary market should become permanent.

“This is what market spirit is like: we arrive and there is nothing there, we build up for the day, and when we leave there is nothing left. I think it is ridiculous to put a lot of money into something that does not need to be, something really modern. It is only for six months of the year.”

Chelsea Mathieson, the assistant market co-ordinator at the Ecosociety, says she has been getting a positive response from both vendors and customers about the new, temporary market.

“They say the market has a more light and airy feel,” she said, “and as well the seating area has been improved. There is much more room for people to listen to music, or sit down and eat their meals.”

Carl and Sarah Kistner of Stone Meadow Gardens (pictured below) like the openness of this summer’s market, and they say it’s cleaner because transients are not living and sleeping in it.

“One of the big issues they had here,” said Carl, “was the filth around the stalls, it was pretty disgusting quite often. In the morning they would have to come and hose things down and clean up.”

Nelson singer-songwriter Brian Rosen, after performing a set at the market, said he prefers it to the old set-up.

“As a performer, I like it because they put this double tent in here for people to actually sit and listen and enjoy themselves.”

The city tore down the market structures last year on the grounds that they were old and dilapidated, and because they served as a home for a transient drug culture at the park.

The city’s plan for new market structures is part of a larger planning process for Railtown, which includes a proposal for condos at the current park location.

The city’s plans for Railtown, which are still under development, can be found online at nelsonrailtown.com.

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