Oakland County Parks seek ownership of county market

Under a current proposal, the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission would assume management and operation of the Oakland County Market, a mainstay for providing grower-direct fresh produce and flowers to residents since 1953. The goal is to expand the market, which currently is operated by the Facilities Maintenance and Operations division. The transfer of operations is expected to be approved at the May 5 Oakland County Board of Commissioners meeting.

“The goal for The Market is to promote access to fresh produce, meat, dairy, plants and flowers to residents in a fun, exciting and educational atmosphere,” Parks Executive Officer Dan Stencil said. “The Market aligns with all aspects of the parks system’s mission statement by encouraging healthy lifestyles, supporting economic prosperity and promoting the protection of natural resources, while at the same time providing high-quality recreational experiences.”

The Market, located at 2350 Pontiac Lake Road in Waterford, is operated as a producer direct venue, requiring all vendors to grow or produce the goods they sell. The 14-acre market site consists of a 7,453-square-foot building with 38 indoor stalls, 32 outdoor stalls under a canopy, 20 non-sheltered stalls, parking for 268 vehicles, an orchard and adjacent woodlot.

The addition would bring the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission’s 13 properties up to 6,700 acres.

A farmers market operates at the site on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, with a flea market using the space on Sunday. In 2009, TheMarket had approximately 300,000 visitors.

“Oakland County Parks will explore ways to use the building and grounds on non-market days, filling excess capacity through programs, rentals and special events” Stencil said.

Oakland County Parks will assume full management and operation of the site with the start of the 2011 Fiscal Year on October 1, 2010.

According to Stencil, The Market ties in with several new parks and recreation initiatives, including the recent acquisition of a five-acre greenhouse complex at Waterford Oaks County Park.

“Not everyone recreates by going to a golf course, trail or waterpark. An afternoon spent walking among market vendors has become part of an active lifestyle of many adults and families with young children,” Jon Noyes, supervisor of parks and recreation planning, said. “A trip to The Market can provide that extra nudge to get back into our gardens and flower beds or to set up a window box or patio garden for the first time.  For this reason, Oakland County Parks staff is recognizing the recreational value of horticulture.”

According to Noyes, a broad horticultural recreation initiative could include:

  • Using the newly acquired greenhouse complex to host educational programs and volunteer opportunities
  • Continuing to use satellite gardens at a variety of park sites to create community service opportunities
  • Using The Market to raise awareness of the richness of Michigan agriculture, artisan foods and handicrafts.
  • Providing recreational programs and services that highlight what makes Oakland County a good place to live, work and play

Preliminary program ideas include: a Kids Day with mobile recreation units including a climbing tower and inflatable bouncers; Flower Day, modeled after Eastern Market’s spring flower kick-off sale; and an Oakland County Parks Day where participants would receive discounts if they are an Oakland County Parks annual vehicle permit holder.

Adding to the experience at The Market, there is a proposal for new pathways around and adjacent to the facility, both to increase pedestrian access and provide opportunities for recreation and exercise. Together with sidewalks and a looped fitness trail adjacent to theExecutive Office Building, nearly 1.5 miles of walking opportunities could be created for market patrons and county staff alike.

Future opportunities may include a booth that would promote county services such as the parks system’s annual vehicle permit, dog licenses and more.

“We’d like to help assist other county departments in offering their services to county residents and The Market is a perfect showcase,” Stencil said. “Staff has also discussed potential partnerships with nearby businesses including restaurants, local retailers, and the new Oakland County Cruisers baseball stadium.”

“One of our main goals is to be able to provide access to fresh produce for underserved areas of the county,” Stencil said. “The Market is in close proximity to the City of Pontiac and is serviced by public transportation via the SMART bus. Recent legislation has extended the use of the Electronic Benefits Transfer (Bridge) cards to farmers markets. We will be exploring options for use of the cards at The Market as a way to reach a broader customer base.”

For more information about Oakland County Parks, visit DestinationOakland.com.

Courtney Lawless

Courtney is the traveling mom! She has 3 girls and is the founder of Detroit Mommies and currently lives in Florida. You can follow her on Twitter @courtneyRVL.

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