Moms love it. Babies love it. Grandpas love it. Downtown secretaries and workers and business executives love it. Palmer High School students love it.
Resident of Acacia Park on Monday mornings for almost 30 years, the downtown farmers market is an undisputed hit.
But along with a slew of other special events, most centered in the Acacia Park area, the market has recently been targeted by nearby business owners for removal to another location. Complainants say the market adds to the persistent problem of limited downtown parking spaces and reduces access to their shops on summer Mondays when the market is in session.
"I'd hope they could find another solution to the problem," said West Side resident and frequent downtown farmers market shopper Linda Patzke.
Patzke and her husband say they arrange trips to the farmers market based on their day off from work, Monday, and add that they have dropped in on stores they wouldn't normally visit when they've come downtown on Monday mornings to shop for fresh produce.
Joe Miller, who farms north of Denver and sells Miller Farms vegetables at the downtown market each week, says he wouldn't miss the Monday morning Acacia Park market. "This is about our best market in the state," he said, "and we do about 22 markets across the state."
Market master Frank Schmidt affirmed rumors that the market may be forced to move next year.
Until just a few years ago, Acacia Park hosted two farmers markets per week, one on Monday and one on Thursday. But according to Schmidt, city parks officials strongly suggested that the Thursday market be moved to Memorial Park, a larger space with less parking and traffic problems than downtown.
"It took a while to catch on," said Schmidt, Miller nodding in agreement. "But it's OK now."
"We'd hate to lose our downtown market," said Schmidt, a beekeeper who sells his honey, pollen and wax products at the farmers market. "But the parks people have made it increasingly difficult for us to hold the market here in recent years, by blocking entry at the four corners of the park and limiting our entry to one spot on Nevada Avenue.
"We haven't been definitely notified," he added, "but I've been told we will very likely need to move out of Acacia Park next year."
Public process needed
City of Colorado Springs Special Events Coordinator P.C. White said no final decision has been made, but indicated that a change in locale for the Acacia Park farmers market is a very real possibility.
"Their revocable permit expires next month," said White. "At the end of October, they will have to come in for a new permit."
White explained that discussion of moving the market comes from a group of citizens and city officials, the Downtown Task Force, who have been meeting to address the problems that stem from an abundance of special events in the city-center park, many of which require the closing of streets for up to a day. He added that he and Schmidt have talked about the possibility of relocating the market to Vermijo Street, just south of the Pioneers Museum. Should that plan work out, one block of Vermijo Street would be blocked off on Monday mornings to accommodate the market.
"Should it come to that, if zoning and traffic engineering have no problems, I would approve of relocating the market to south of the Pioneers Museum," White said. "Of course, there would also be some outreach to the courthouse and nearby businesses that would be affected."
But just how close the city is to a final decision on the fate of the market is unclear. Quinn Peitz, city planner and facilitator of the Downtown Task Force, says the farmers market has not come up in the group's discussions to date. The group is composed of Downtown Partnership director Beth Spokas, City Councilwoman Judy Noyes, Parks and Recreation representatives Linda Pitzer and Laura Davidson, downtown resident Robert Gray and Downtown Business Improvement District's Dave Kosley.
"We never really talked about the farmers market per se," said Peitz. "We were really responding to the one-time or one-time-a-year events like the Centennial Celebration of the Police Department, the Parade of Lights, the Gay Pride event, the Veterans Day Parade and events like that.
"We had a meeting in August in which we invited all downtown business people and residents to come and hear our recommendations. As a group, the committee was still in support of holding events in the downtown area." Discussed were the committee's recommendations to look at holding events in Antlers Park (behind the Antlers Doubletree Hotel) and Courthouse Square (south of Pioneers Museum); holding more events on Sunday when the closing down of streets would have less impact on business traffic; keeping the northbound lane of Cascade Avenue open to traffic on days of special events; appointing a member of the Downtown Task Force to the City's Special Events committee; and moving some of the largest events to Memorial Park.
"I think we might have to have some kind of public process before we move the farmers market," said Peitz, adding, "There are certainly other venues in the downtown area where we can direct special events and they can still remain downtown."
Unique community event
Some downtown farmers market patrons don't believe the market should be lumped together with parades and other special events that effectively shut down the area to traffic, arguing that the farmers market is a unique community event that brings new customers to downtown Colorado Springs, tieing up parking spaces only during the morning hours one day a week.
"I love coming here," said Cheryl Larkin. "I live in walking distance now, but even when I lived farther away from downtown, I always came to this market. It just feels so much like a small community where everyone comes together on Monday."
Her friend and fellow shopper agreed. "When I have out-of-town company, I always bring them here on Mondays. It makes downtown Colorado Springs look like a really unique community."
Next Monday, Oct. 1, will be the final downtown market of the 2001 season.