EcoSociety market director Jesse Woodward at Cottonwood Market. He wonders what will happen after the city demolishes the aging wooden market structures.

Cottonwood Market stalls to be demolished

The EcoSociety will be working with the city to put up new shelters.

This is the fourth in a series on the Railtown district. Earlier stories are about the Izushi Society, transients in Cottonwood Park, and a planning process for Railtown.

The City of Nelson  plans to demolish the wooden structures that make up Cottonwood Market this fall, and Jesse Woodward, who runs the market for the EcoSociety, is worried about the future of the market.

“People come to the market from all over the world and they get this funky Nelson experience,” he says.

The city owns the land and the market structures that date back to the 1970s. Recently, city engineers have said the buildings and electrical system are not up to standard.

“They are old at the end of their life,” says city manager Kevin Cormack.

Jesse Woodward photo

But what will replace the market stalls is unclear, says Woodward.

“The market, the music, the park, the eclectic people — you get a slice of Nelson that you cannot get anywhere else in town.”

Or anywhere else in the province, according to Dianna Ducs of Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism.

“It’s a Kootenay cultural experience,” she says. “The character of the people, the products that people are selling — it is a different atmosphere from any other market in BC.”

Jesse Woodward photo

Asked to what degree the purpose of the demolition is to discourage transients from sleeping there, Cormack said, “I don’t think that is the driver of it, but it is public safety. It is difficult to monitor what is going on there. The [structures] attract people to be sleeping there and doing other things. But the biggest reason is that they are an eyesore and past their life.”

Woodward wonders if the city appreciates the market enough.

“By taking away the base it sits on, I am worried that we will lose this wonderful experience,” he says. “It has a long history — 20 years. It is not something to be tossed away, and I hope the city realizes this. Vendors are concerned that if you take away the stalls, you take away sun and weather protection, and you don’t have much left.”

Jesse Woodward photo

Over the next year the city intends to create a community plan for Railtown, the area that extends from Cottonwood Falls through the businesses and houses on Railway and Government streets, to the CPR station and the businesses across from it.

What to do with the market will be part of that planning, city planner Pam Mierau told the Star last week, and there will be opportunities for public input during the process.

But the plan will take a year to create and longer than that to implement it, so what will happen to the market in the next couple of years?

Cormack said the city and EcoSociety are exploring a collaboration that would see some temporary canvas park shade structures installed for the summer and then taken down when market season is done.

Woodward goes along with that as long as there is a more permanent result soon.

“The EcoSociety has been left hanging,” says Woodward. “The thing that scares us most is the stalls come down, and nothing happens for ten years. We are not sure if the city wants to have a market down there.

“We think they do. We hope they do. It supports a lot of local business people, generates a lot of revenue, supports local agriculture and food networks, supports local goods and services.”

Bill Metcalfe photo

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