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UPDATE: City working with Farmers’ Market to address concerns

UPDATE: The City of Grande Prairie says it has reached out to the Farmers’ Market to address its access and parking concerns. Project Technologist Conor Coney says access to their east parking lot was restricted Wednesday as ATCO Electric installed electrical connections to a transformer in the alley north of 101st Street.

The fence that was blocking it off has been moved and the market has access to part of the lot. The goal is to keep that partial access moving forward.

The Grande Prairie Farmers’ Market has had enough with construction downtown. Manager Darice Rach says she’s dealt with access issues all summer, but further infringement on their parking Wednesday has her fuming.

“We had no sidewalk access for seniors to get to the building, we have really no road access to get to us because every street has been shut down downtown here, and then today, the breaking point was when we got to work and the parking lot’s been closed off on the side of the building and a portion of the back parking lot.”

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Rach estimates there are close to 40 spaces still available, but because of a lack of parking due to construction throughout the downtown core, she says they’ve been plagued by non-market users parking there this summer. Some construction workers were reportedly also using the stalls earlier in the year, but the Grande Prairie Downtown Association helped fix that problem.

The latest development means the fresh fruit and vegetable vendors that are normally parked outside of the building don’t have space to park. Rach says the draw from those stands is essential to the facility’s success.

“If our fruit people and vegetable people have to leave because they have nowhere to park those trucks, and go to some lot on the other side of the city, the Farmers’ Market will not be able to stay open.”

Despite the downfall in the economy over the last couple of years, Rach says the GP Farmers’ Market is one of only a few in the region to stay full. However, this year has changed that.

“The Farmers’ Market hasn’t had an empty space in three years and we have five empty booths right now… This year we have a lot of local community people that are struggling horribly. For every one of the 60 people that are local that are trying to sell their goods, there’s an entire family at home that is depending on that.”

The vendors aren’t the only ones complaining. Rach says she has also fielded angry letters, calls, and visits from customers who can’t find parking or who struggle to access the building itself. Those complaints are now being forwarded to City Hall.

“They want to come down here and they want to do their shopping. It would be like going to the Prairie Mall and having 100 parking stalls and no access out the one side of the parking lot, and when you get to the end of the parking lot, there’s people parked there so you’re trying to back out and there’s three people behind you.”

Rach argues streets should have been worked on one at a time, and consideration should have been made for pedestrians to have better access downtown. In the meantime, she’d be happier if she could get back the side parking lot, access to her office, and lines painted in the back parking lot to help with congestion.

In a statement, the city says it “takes the concerns of all those impacted by the Downtown Rehabilitation Project seriously. We are currently inquiring into this specific concern and are working towards understanding and resolving the concerns of the Farmers’ Market.”

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