Woodland’s latest attempt to install and foster a viable, local farmers’ market, this time using significant redevelopment money, began last Saturday with a small group of participants easily managing to express and register with attending municipal staff (taking copious notes) most of the salient issues relevant for establishing Freeman Park as a valid venue for such a market, as well as a prominent fixture of the historical downtown area.

This surprisingly effective effort was conducted by two consultants retained by the city redevelopment agency, Farmers’ Markets America (reviving farms and communities), represented by Vance Corum of Vancouver, Washington, and Indigo Architects LLP of Davis (art, architecture, ecology), represented by its principal, Jonathan Hammond.

____  Huge Task Ahead  ____

Enormity of this vital task became immediately apparent through voicing of experienced observations and judgments by these few seasoned participants, quickly revealing a broad spectrum of challenging civic issues, foremost being the (on occasion well-deserved) reputation of Freeman Park, as: “Wino Park.”

Freeman Park is not yet a keystone of community function; forging it as such must become a compelling exercise of civic transition.

Participants variously described conditions of Freeman Park as sometimes outside the comfort zone of confident, family oriented recreation.

A local farmer and market vendor asked whether there are places downtown other than this park’s public restrooms, wherein persons in some need might clean themselves, since it’s routine to find therein, folks improvising baths.

Another person described alerting local police to strange behavior by park occupants, with apprehensions about public safety.

General consensus arose that enough vibrant and balanced community occupation of this space (with knowledgeable, focused policing) would eventually resolve a wide selection of conduct adverse to civic security.

Investment by the city appears imperative for purposes of creating a suitable environment at Freeman Park, attracting consistent strength and breadth of community support, activities and events to become galvanized and flourish.

Corum and Hammond seem to comprehend both the immensity and gravity of this mission. Corum well illustrates it with an ironic comparison. He notes that another of his client cities contains only one thousand (1.000) residents, yet within just a few years it has produced a sustainable farmers’ market boasting 50+ vendors.

Surely, Corum believes, a proportionally similar result could be accomplished here, at an historical county seat of 60,000 residents within the valley heartland of California agriculture.

____  Comments Illuminate Values, Issues, Ideas & Opportunities  ____

Participant Danielle Thomas, Director of YoloArts (county arts council), adroitly indicates that this park is named for our city’s founder, whose wife (Gertrude) actually named the city, strongly implying that it’s likely worth the municipal dime to finally and carefully, with appropriate vision and resolve, upgrade and integrate it within the core of the downtown area.

Thomas describes using Dead Cat Alley to develop a key link across the several blocks from Freeman Park to Woodland Opera House. She also importantly builds upon other participatory comments regarding both design and operation of such a new facility, by suggesting basic and immediate collaboration between relevant community interests: the farmers’ market, downtown merchants and YoloArts.

Consensus clearly exists that some nature of full-time personnel will become essential for success of such an endeavor, to coordinate and develop its diverse aspects; thus, funding of such services will best emerge and optimize upon collaboration, cooperation and action among these key civic interest groups and the city.

Ray Ressler, longtime local business consultant, conceives a ‘downtown district;’ for which Freeman Park would become an anchoring feature on its eastern boundary.

Ressler envisions a large, discernable (downtown historical) district, bounded by East and Elm Streets (“Nugget Market”), as well as including neighborhoods from Gibson Mansion to Beamer Park. He believes that a spectacular renovation of Freeman Park is a fundamental ingredient for establishing the identity and function of such a dynamic district.

Ressler believes eventual existence of the new Yolo County Courthouse, directly across Main Street from Freeman Park, will become a constructive influence upon such a transitionary project for the Park.

Participant Daniel Mora deftly emphasizes the keen importance of serving relevant needs and desires of the informal and diverse group of Latinos who have occupied several of this park’s picnic tables during many days for many decades, clearly an aspect of the modern heritage of this urban park.

Several participants comment about the key interface between the park and Main Street, stating serious concerns related to the too brisk pace of vehicular traffic and the obvious need for pedestrian crosswalks, with one person stating that only an adjacent red-light or stop-sign would persuade them to cross over this often (too) busy thoroughfare.

Consensus is also apparent regarding the basic design structure for the major portion of this proposed new park – market facility: a solid roof protecting from direct sun, rain / wind, while complementing the park’s ambiance / presence, and including convenient sources of electricity and water.

The spurting-water fountain beside Davis’ bicycle museum was mentioned as a reasonable example of such a feature, which helps tame summertime. Further discussion then elevated the notion of providing heat relief toward installing an effective system of water-misters within the market structure.

Other general agreement exists in terms of an understanding of the need to (more or less) dynamically “re-brand” this urban space, as the: “Freeman Park and Farmers’ Market,” for example, including art installations within / around it which both announce and inspire.

Precise orientation within the park, of the specific farmers’ market space, remains an unresolved matter, with several basic models / formats being examined and considered.

Also, the local “Toy Library,” a volunteer effort currently housed within a ~500 square foot space at the one-story (brick) former city parks & recreation building, adjacent to this park, was deemed to be within the (family oriented) goals intended for this revitalization effort and will be considered for inclusion.

Both reuse and demolition of this outdated city building were mentioned.

Another topic of discussion focused on opportunities to activate local food / crafts vendors within some portion of or as adjunct to this facility.

Further municipal meetings on this topic will be forthcoming, with an eye to laying political groundwork for eventual approval of this important civic project.