The Parks & Recreation Commission at its meeting Thursday evening voted 3-0 to approve a permit allowing the return of the Hopkinton Farmers Market to the Town Common this summer, with attendees noting the positive impact it has had historically on several aspects of town life.
Longtime farmers market manager Laura Davis announced that she will be retiring from running the farmers market after 11 years. While the market has grown in popularity, she said the number of volunteers has dwindled over the years.
“The farmers market has become an institution here in Hopkinton,” said chair Dan Terry. “I know a lot of people enjoy it immensely and appreciate that it is a service there.”
“I’m hoping to find someone who can work with me this whole season and then take over,” Davis said, noting that event planning and fundraising skills are helpful attributes.
“Those are big shoes to fill,” said commissioner Laura Hanson.
Last year, Davis explained, the market attracted between 300 and 500 people every Sunday over the course of its 19-week run from June to October. There were 12 vendors who participated each Sunday, with 60 vendors attending for varying amounts of time. Attendance was impacted by the Main Street Construction Project and difficulty parking, she said.
Davis said the number of volunteers when she started was 12, and now there are only three.
Davis noted that last year a market coordinator position was created to help with the growing number of vendors and visitors. Volunteers and vendors begin setting up at 11:30 a.m. for the 1 p.m. opening. Upon closing at 5 p.m., the breakdown effort takes about a half-hour.
The market also offered two $1,000 scholarships to high school students who planned on pursuing degrees in environmental studies or food science. About $27,000 has been donated to date, Davis said.
The market also held two successful winter events at Weston Nurseries, she added.
Grant funding received totaled more than $11,000, Davis said, which included a United States Department of Agriculture grant that almost covered expenses.
Said Davis: “And we spent all that and $38 more.”
Terry noted that despite running a basically break-even operation, the farmers market attracts people to town for dining and shopping as well as purchasing healthy foods.
Parks & Recreation Director Jay Guelfi added that it is a huge draw that entices folks to hang around for the popular summer concert series on Sunday evenings.
“The department has always been very appreciative of the farmers market,” he said, “and I know the community has as well.”
Food truck plans for Boston Marathon curtailed
At the last meeting, the board discussed the possibility of having as many as 15 food trucks serving a variety of cuisines for spectators at the Boston Marathon. At this meeting, Guelfi said that the number had to be slashed to four vendors because the Boston Athletic Association’s decision to use part of the Town Common “does not leave much room for vendors.”
Only the crosswalk between the gazebo and the holiday tree will be allocated, which Guelfi said concerned both him and Town Manager Norman Khumalo at a meeting they had earlier in the day.
Because of the town’s pledge for diversity, equity and inclusion, Guelfi said it is important to offer different types of food. He noted that he and Khumalo discussed the impact not having food availability would have on the town, as it annually anticipates the town to be a tourist attraction for the entire weekend for the event.
Guelfi suggested that American, Asian and South Asian food be offered. He also said that attendees typically buy T-shirts, sweatshirts, novelty items and cowbells from vendors, as well as carnival-type food like fried dough. It would be difficult to cram all of these vendors into a small space, he stressed.
Proposal for College Rock hits snag
Daniel Vickers, the owner of and instructor at the Greater Boston Climbing School, appeared before the commission in January asking to use College Rock for commercial rock climbing instruction and guided trips. He is a member of the American Mountain Guides Association.
Guelfi said that he recently learned that College Rock falls under the Conservation Commission, and Vickers would need a permit from that group. Guelfi said he spoke to Conservation Administrator Kim Ciaramicoli about the proposal and noted that she shared the same concerns the Parks & Recreation Commission had about excluding resident access, trash and damage to the natural resource.
Said Guelfi: “I found it was quite odd that when College Rock had graffiti all over it, it was [my responsibility].”
He noted that the Conservation Commission’s review would be “very thorough.”
Terry questioned whether all of the issues raised about a recreational program would fall under the Conservation Commission’s jurisdiction. Guelfi said he will attend that meeting and express the commission’s concerns.
Eagle Scouts propose service projects
Eagle Scout Kaisar Rangwala proposed building a shed on the concrete slab located at the dog park at Fruit Street. It would be used for storing equipment, he explained.
“We’d have a seasonal place to access tools right on the site,” he said.
Guelfi noted that he allocated a $1,200 budget to Rangwala for the project. Rangwala is designing it, and troop members will help in building it. Once the scoutmaster gives final approval, they can plan the construction. He hopes it can be built in the summer.
Terry suggested that Rangwala speak with the Building Department to determine the proper specifications for the shed.
Also, Eagle Scout Surya Raja proposed building a kiosk for the highly anticipated pickleball courts off of Fruit Street. He asked about the timing for the project.
Guelfi explained that the pickleball court plans need to go before the Planning Board, and the approval process should be complete in April. Construction is expected to begin in the fall on the courts, so the kiosk would not need to be built until next spring.
Terry noted that it could be constructed offsite in advance. Guelfi added that the Department of Public Works could assist with concrete pouring. The Highway Department can help with any heavy machinery needed.
Guelfi stressed that the past three Eagle Scout projects over the past four years have been successful. They included patching up the tennis courts, building a map of the United States over EMC Playground, and building a kiosk at the dog park. Rangwala still has two years before he turns 18 to complete the project.
Skate park project discussed
Guelfi noted that the proposed skate park has become “an involved engineering project.” He has asked for input from Town Engineer Dave Daltorio at the request of the town manager.
Daltorio, via Guelfi, requested that materials be delivered to the site at 6 a.m. pending notice to the abutters. Terry said that more outreach needed to be done to the neighborhood for the sake of transparency. Supplies would need to be delivered early in the morning in the summer because use of the park starts as early as 8 a.m.
Terry asked that the vote be tabled. Two of the five commissioners, Liisa Jackson and Amy O’Donnell, were not able to attend the meeting.
Said Terry: “I think that when you try to push processes through too fast, it seems like you’re trying to do something that’s not completely transparent.”
Guelfi retiring, but timeline ‘fluid’
Guelfi recently announced that he will be retiring from his role as director. He said he was asked by Khumalo to stay until the end of the calendar year. Guelfi said he agreed, calling his timeline “fluid.”
The department also is seeking a coordinator following the departure of Jenny Hart last month.
The next meeting will be Thursday, March 23, at 5:30 p.m.