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Galax has been awarded a $99,000 USDA Rural Development grant to update the city's farmers' market by constructing restrooms, upgrading landscaping and adding a food preparation area.
Coinciding with the revitalization project in downtown Galax, the farmers' market last year underwent a makeover — bike racks were installed to welcome visitors from the New River Trail, signs were repaired, columns were repainted and the facility received electrical upgrading to accommodate large festival events, such as Smoke on the Mountain.
The grant splits the project into segments — one for landscaping and the other for construction — which will allow the city to remove rotting trees and replace them with new greenery, install “uplighting” and create a smoother walking surface.
A three-compartment hand sink, hidden behind a roll-up coiling door when the market is closed, will allow producers and vendors to meet certain requirements imposed by the Virginia Department of Health, said Keith Barker, assistant city manager.
“Some festival vendors have a hard time meeting requirements” because they don't have access to sinks, he said. “The health department wanted to address this, and we thought maybe we could expand our offerings.”
Behind the market, male and female handicap-accessible restroom facilities will be constructed in the island of the parking lot, resulting in the loss of only one parking space.
“The idea for a restroom facility goes back a number of years,” said Barker, as he shows sketches he produced about 10 years ago. “The restrooms would bolster use of the market and provide restrooms in the downtown area.”
During festivals, the city has to bring in several portable restrooms. This way, at least one area downtown will offer a permanent public restroom facility. The restrooms, he said, will be constructed with the same materials used to create the ones at Mountain View Park.
Located on the other side of the restrooms will be an area for storage and a utility sink.
Since 2002, Barker said the city has been trying to figure out how to get the money needed to improve the farmers' market. Almost $40,000 was budgeted last fiscal year for landscaping, but the city had to pull the funding when the economy started turning, said Barker.
That's when he contacted Rural Development, which offered to pick up the project.
“This is a great opportunity with little or no cost to the citizens,” said Barker. “We think this is a great project.”
Barker said the construction would not impede any festivals or activities at the farmers' market. Barker said it's hard to estimate the time frame for the project, since no contracts have been signed yet, but construction should work around the farmers' market schedule.