Public market idea being floated for Riverside Park

A group is proposing that space at Riverside Park be used for a public market.

A proposal called the Kamloops Public Market has been brought to council's attention for a section of Riverside Park near the lawn bowling field. Discussed recently in an in-camera meeting, the plans have been made public by Ruth Madsen, a West End resident who is opposed to the project.

Those plans show a 35,000-square-foot building for a year-round commercial space and an outdoor seasonal farmers market adjacent. The structure would be built on land currently used for a parking lot across from the Sandman Hotel, with the market on the ground level and a parkade underneath. The seasonal market would be to the east, covering land by the park's current southeastern entrance, toward the roundabout at Third Avenue and Lorne Street.

The proponent of the project is a group called the Kamloops Public Market Cooperative, though no individual is listed in the documents.

Byron McCorkell, the city's community services director, says the idea is simply a concept that a local organization presented to the city.

"It's a group of people who came forward and said 'Hey, we got an idea, what do you think?'" he says. "It's based upon a group of people who've been working for the better part of three years through our urban ag program, who've talked repeatedly about doing an indoor year-round farmers market."

Speaking to the mayor and councillors at Tuesday's public meeting, Madsen voiced opposition to the plan. In particular, she was upset by the idea of commercial businesses being allowed on city parkland.

"I don't care if it's farmers market or if it's crafters, but once you set a precedent of industry in our park, the precedent is going to have other people come forward," she says.

McCorkell is concerned media attention so early on in the project's discussion may kill the idea before the community has had a chance to properly weigh in.

"It's an idea being presented; it's gotta go through a whole raft of proposals," he says. "You guys jump on it and kill an idea before people can even get an idea out. Let the people get the idea out."

He says council has been supporting conversations regarding a year-round farmers market as a form of tourism and to help the urban agriculture community.

The location presented in the documents Madsen obtained is the same as a parkade that was proposed in 2011, which was ultimately defeated by public opposition.

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