March 31 marked the last day of the month, but the first of the last three weeks for the Marco Island Farmers Market this season. It also was the first of three Wednesdays that it will be held at Mackle Park on Andalusia Drive until its return in November.
According to Parks and Recreation staff, the change from its normal location at Veterans’ Community Park is due to impending construction at that location. That long-anticipated project will transform Veterans’ Community Park into a first class gathering place for a wide variety of activities and events in the future.
The land on which Veterans Community Park presently sits was purchased by island residents over two decades ago, and the master plan for the park was designed over a decade ago. That design was reconfirmed approximately three years ago by original architects Kimley Horn and Associates, one of the nation’s premier planning and design consultants.
The original planning for the improved physical aspects of the park were undertaken by a group of community volunteers working along with city staff. That group held a number of public meetings and charettes to determine the desires of the community in 2009. A similar re-look at the original plans was once again approved in 2019.
Council then approved the selection of a Construction Manager at Risk style of contract for the project, and selected Manhattan Construction for that responsibility. Final pricing should be discussed at the April 5 meeting of the Marco City Council, as costs for sub-contractors should have been received by Manhattan at that time.
With all necessary components in place to begin construction at Veterans’ Park, it was decided to move the popular Farmers Market for the remainder of the 2020-2021 Season rather than shorten the popular event. Holding the last three weeks of the market at Mackle Park will allow city staff, including Parks and Recreation, Fire/EMS, Police and Public Works to work through any logistical issues prior to startup of the longer season in 2021-2022, which will see the market continue at Mackle Park until construction is completed.
“We were absolutely pleased with the outcome of the first week of operations here at Mackle,” said Samantha Malloy, Manager of Parks and Recreation and Cultural Affairs. “We are evaluating the suggestions of vendors, attendees and city staff, and will implement those suggestions we feel have merit in making for a smooth operating template for the event. We’ll continue to take suggestions and move forward to ensure the event is without issues.”
As we walked the park that day, many were elated that it was still being held. Mary Gibbons from Chicago, who is a three-month visitor to the island, had high praise for the market. “This is one of the highlights of the week for me and I applaud the efforts put into making it work so flawlessly,” she said. Denis Meurgue, award-winning chef of Bistro Soleil at the Old Marco Inn, had praise for the weekly event. “I am sure there will be minor issues, but overall, I believe they have done a wonderful job providing this opportunity for vendors and guests alike.”
The Farmers Market will be held on both April 7 and 14 before closing for the season.