Farmers’ Market heading to greener space?

P1 farmers market copyBy Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Each Saturday, the municipal parking lot adjacent to the Bridgton Community Center is buzzing with activity.

Many locals and visitors peruse fresh produce and other products at the Farmers’ Market, while others park their vehicles and shop stores along Depot and Main Streets. Others head to the Magic Lantern to watch the latest must-see movie or kick back for lunch at the Tannery Pub.

Busy is good for business.

But, congestion is becoming a big problem.

Frank Howell, owner of the Magic Lantern and Downeast Industries voiced some concerns with town officials regarding the “very crowded” situation at the Depot Street parking area.

Howell noted that he avoids having tractor-trailer trucks making deliveries to Downeast on a Saturday because heavy use of the parking lot would prevent a truck from accessing the Downeast facility.

Another issue is reduced parking for Magic Lantern patrons.

Howell wondered why the Farmers’ Market had not returned to its place along the grassy edges along Depot Street, which would ease the congestion that currently exists.

Breanna Mae Thomas-Googins of Patch Farm in Denmark, assistant manager of the Bridgton Farmers’ Market, welcomed the chance to return to the green spaces along Depot Street — which were designed during the streetscape project with the Farmers’ Market in mind, she pointed out.

To create safe zones in the market area, five parking spaces are blocked off, Thomas-Goggins pointed out. Additional space is lost due to the Lake Region Explorer bus.

But, there is a problem there. Initially, the town wanted the grass there given a year to mature, thus keeping people off it. Bridgton’s Economic and Community Development Director Anne Krieg said the grass did not respond well, and soil samples have been taken to determine what course of action should be taken.

Selectmen felt the “congestion” problem could be solved by either having the Market move to the backside of the Community Center (set up much like vendors participating in the Village Folk Festival), or move to the Municipal Complex parking lot.

Thomas-Googins said vendors would not be able to “stake down” tents in the Municipal Complex parking lot, creating a real safety hazard. Meanwhile, Farmers’ Market supporters would hate to give up a location customers are accustomed to and look forward to visiting — suggesting the Saturday trip to market is “an event” for many.

One immediate solution is for vendors (which number in the 17 range) to park farm trucks off-site, possibly near Bridgton Memorial School. Many will be encouraged to do this, while some “older vendors” will still need to keep their vehicles nearby.

Thomas-Goggins will work with Bridgton’s Public Works Director Jim Kidder in seeking out other ways to reduce congestion in the parking lot.

The Farmers’ Market continues to November.

“We can work through this,” Bridgton Town Manager Robert Peabody said.

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