Market value

Saturday farmers’ market needs a long-term vision

“I know that there’s a feeling you get when you walk in there—that it’s something extremely special.” That’s what City Councilman Jim Walker said at a public meeting earlier this month discussing the Saturday farmers’ market in downtown Chico.

He’s right. The weekly event is a bright spot for the community. An estimate from a Chico State survey determined that 3,000 to 3,500 people—a conservative figure excluding children—visit the market each Saturday.

For now at least, talks about relocating the event have died down. The Chico Certified Farmers Market—organizers of the Chico market and several others—has a franchise agreement with the city to operate at its current location for another year. That city-owned parking lot at East Second and Walls streets is a fine location. It has been for nearly 17 years.

But it could be better.

First off, Second Street needs something to slow down traffic at the crosswalks at Wall and Flume streets. It’s not unusual to see cars stop abruptly in the middle of those intersections to avoid hitting pedestrians. At Internal Affairs Committee meetings, there was talk about volunteer crossing guards and temporary stop signs. Both are great ideas and would cost the city little or no money. It’s been weeks since those discussions, though, and nothing has materialized. What’s up with that?

And what’s up with the myopic view of the event?

Chicoans love the market. It’s here to stay. So what it needs is some sort of long-term plan that addresses traffic and other issues. Upgrades certainly are in order. Permanent restrooms immediately come to mind. Places for visitors to sit and relax or eat are some others. City leaders, market organizers and local businesses need to come up with a vision—one that does justice to what has become a Chico institution.