By Kimberly Strong-Knight and William Lebo

Vendors at the Haliburton farmers market say they continue to see less traffic and a downward trend in sales this year.

One of the main reasons, some think, is Dysart et al’s decision to move the market from Head Lake Park to Rotary Park.

Lauren Phillips, manager of the farmers market, said traffic is down as much as 75 per cent.

Keli Schmidt, of Haliburton Clothing Co., said people don’t like the new location.

“We are not visible anymore. It is an inferior location in terms of parking, accessibility, and washrooms. The ground is very uneven and makes it difficult for anyone who has mobility issues.” She also said anyone who has anything to sell knows it only takes making it a tiny bit more difficult to have a massive impact on sales and participation

Marchand Lamarre, of Garlic Clove, agreed, “it has been very discouraging to see the farmers market being singled out as other groups and events continue to use Head Lake Park.” He would like the market to be seen as a major asset to the community, and be prioritized for a permanent location, “as per the Head Lake Rotary Park Master Plan and the Haliburton Highlands 5-Year Destination Management Plan.”

Downtown businesses say they are also feeling the impact.

Laurie Bonfield, of Country Pickin’s, said market day (Tuesdays) was more like a Saturday in town when the market was at the Head Lake Park location, and she’s seen a significant decrease in sales.

Other businesses and restaurants are citing anywhere from a 30 to 70 per cent drop.

Bonnie Hoenow, owner of the Maple Avenue Tap and Grill, said they used to have to stock up for market day, but that is not the case anymore.

Amanda Conn, executive director of the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce, said she is keeping an eye on things.

The decision was made by Dysart over the winter and vendors only informed in the spring.

“We received an email just about two weeks before the market opened,” said Heather Bramham, of Esson Creek Maple. “I wrote to the council right away. I also wrote everybody on the board of directors for the farmers market.” The message she received back from the market manager, on behalf of the board, was they had been contesting the decision and trying to come up with alternatives, but council did not listen.

Phillips said she’s heard the vendors’ concerns and the board is still strategizing, as they want to “maintain a good working relationship” with the council. “We hope to return to Head Lake Park next year, but we will have to meet with the council again.”

Council cited construction of a new playground and potential liability as a result. However, to date, no construction has begun, according to Lamarre, while other groups and events continue to use the space. Dysart has also said the move is temporary, for a year. Some vendors, such as Schmidt and Bramham, are skeptical. “The whole vibe is just not the same,” said Schmidt. “Let’s hope the temporary relocation is true.” Manager of programs and events, Andrea Mueller, did not return phone calls.