Warrensburg Farmers’ Market patrons Ruth Near (left) and Mary Cranker cross River St. after shopping Friday Sept. 6 at the market (at rear) as a Jeep stops well before the crosswalk. Pedestrian safety concerns have been raised over the past several years, with suggestions the market move to a site with adjacent parking — but the market’s manager protested such an idea this week.
The popular Warrensburgh Farmers Market, held Fridays on River St. has prompted pedestrian safety concerns to be aired with the town board, but the market’s founder responded this week that the apprehensions are unfounded.
Warren County Sheriff Bud York sent a letter to the town board recently citing that there had been several incidences in which pedestrians were nearly struck by vehicles, asking the town to address the problem, according to town supervisor Kevin Geraghty.
The Warrensburgh Farmers’ Market is held from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays and draws hundreds of people to its site along narrow River St., which is also serves as state Rte. 418, the main route to the town of Thurman and the primary route to Stony Creek from the east.
One option mentioned by Geraghty in the past has been moving the market to the pavilion at the town recreation field off Library Avenue, or a site on Main St. where the enterprise would have more visibility. During the summer months, tens of thousands of vehicles pass daily on Main St., perhaps ten times the traffic on River St.
Geraghty has said such a move to Main St. might not only help allay safety concerns, but boost the market’s revenue. A boost in patronage would be welcome, as the market has been seeing declining attendance this summer due to the recent proliferation of other farmers’ markets in the region.
Warrensburg market founder and manager Teresa Whalen, however, staunchly supports the enterprise staying put on River St. The market is the only one in the region that features a pleasant riverside setting, with water cascading over rocks not far behind the lineup of produce and gourmet food vendors.
Whalen said that although Rte. 418 has hosted various crashes through the years, not one has occurred adjacent to the farmers’ market in its 15 years of existence.
The market organizers have implemented various safety precautions in recent years, including the installation of a crosswalk, and warning signs notifying motorists 100 yards in advance that the market is in session, and setting out fluorescent orange construction cones ton Friday afternoons to guide traffic when the market is underway.
On Friday Sept. 6 during a 30-minute visit to the market, vehicles slowed down below 10 miles per hour — many slowing to a crawl or stopping at the market entrance.
“Considering all the precautionary measures we’ve taken, that area of the roadway is now safer than it is at any other time of the week or the year,” Whalen said. “We’ve gone above and beyond in addressing the safety issue.”
She added that the riverside park that she and other members of Warrensburgh Beautification created drew a good number of people to the market due to the site’s ambiance.
“Situating the market in the riverfront park was to increase awareness to the natural resources in our community,” she said. “How blessed we are to have the Schroon River running through our town, and the market has brought attention to it,” she said.
Whalen contended that a Main Street location might decrease business, because motorists would be wary of stopping, and few sites on the busy roadway had sufficient parking.
“Other markets that have moved to highway locations experience a decrease in patrons,” she said.
The suggested recreation field site, she said, posed access problems, particularly for older market patrons, as the pavilion is on a hill, and it’s a fair distance from a limited amount of parking.
“Our vendors don’t want to be on Main St. or at the recreation field,” she said, noting that the sports events held on the fields surrounding the pavilion would conflict with the market operations.
She said that thousands of market patrons are accustomed to the present market location, and they might not patronize it if it were relocated. She said that a recent survey she conducted indicated that both vendors and shoppers wanted the market to stay on River St..
“If our market moves, our vendors are not likely to move with us — we likely would not have a market at all,” she said.
Whalen continued that if any pedestrian safety problem indeed had occurred in the past at the riverside site, it could have been avoided by more vigilant road patrols in the primarily residential area.
Geraghty said that one potential alternate site might be the former Econo-Quik gas station lot, now in use temporarily for Warrensburg Health Center employees during the new center’s construction, but likely empty again by next summer.
But Geraghty added that the town board would be collaborating with Whalen and her associates rather than mandating a relocation.
“We all think having it along the river is pleasant, but we do have continuing concerns about safety,” he said. “We’ll be talking with the Beautification members to see what we can do together.”