Dysart et al deputy mayor Walt McKechnie said he and the rest of the township’s council are supportive of the Haliburton County Farmers Market Association’s efforts to maintain a weekly merchant market in town, noting three options have been offered for the coming season.

As reported in last week’s Highlander, council has told market officials the event can return to Head Lake Park in the spring, following a one-year hiatus, providing they reimburse the township $5 for each vendor in attendance, for every market day.

HCFMA is considering the proposal, with no decision made as of press time, according to president, Kevin Fisher.

McKechnie said council has also offered for the market to be located at Rotary Beach Park or the Head Lake boardwalk at no cost.

Brian Nash, a member of the HCFMA board, told The Highlander recently he doesn’t believe there’s sufficient interest from vendors to return to Rotary Beach, which hosted the market last year. Attendance dropped approximately 30 per cent following the move, Nash said.

He noted the boardwalk wouldn’t be a good location as merchants would have difficulty setting up stalls and transporting their goods down the narrow stretch.

McKechnie felt the fees outlined by council for HCFMA to use Head Lake Park are fair and protect Dysart taxpayers.

“One of council’s mandates is to look after the assets of the municipality in an efficient, cost-effective manner… the area in Head Lake Park used for the farmers market is a problem area where damage can occur, especially when it’s raining or when vendors drive off the paved paths. This results in large ruts along the paths and damage to the grass area, requiring extra groundskeeping,” McKechnie said.

“Council has put considerable tax dollars into the park in the past few years – $600,000 for a new playground, $400,000 for the welcome centre – extra costs created by one organization should not be taken on by taxpayers… I don’t think $5 [for each vendor, each event] is too much to ask” he added.

The deputy mayor says there’s no agenda against HCFMA and that fees will be considered for every event being held at Head Lake Park moving forward.

“It’s an asset that is used by various groups throughout the year. Each brings something different; each gives something back to the community in some way,” McKechnie said. “As part of the Head Lake Park Master Plan, council will review all users of the park, including vendors and their relationship to the parent organization.

“We’re fortunate to have such an asset in this community. Council will continue to preserve the park for all to enjoy,” McKechnie added.