Tanya and Sky Wesolowski, Coorabell.
The flat section of the Butler Street Reserve located at the disused rubbish depot was gazetted for Public Recreation in 1973.
For almost 40 years it has been used and recognised as the only site for the monthly Byron Bay community market. The world renowned colourful collection of around 350 stalls directly employs about a thousand people in the Northern Rivers and provides many in our community with an opportunity to work with their families, to try their skills in small business, explore craft or new ideas.
For many it is a vital, sustainable income.
The market is managed by the Byron Bay Community Centre and the proceeds are used to help many, including the most disadvantaged.
For two generations it has been a place where community and visitors can mingle experiencing a local life style and music surrounded by the beautiful remnants of the Cumbebin Nature Reserve.
In recent years the Farmers’ Market has been a welcome addition to the reserve and a weekly user of the space.
For many years the market community has resisted numerous attempts at relocation. A vote three years ago clearly showed the preference and the will of the people was to remain at Butler Street Reserve. A year ago the stallholders were told that a five-year lease had been given to BBCC to run the market at the reserve. This was welcomed by the stallholders as they could plan the future for their businesses with a little bit more certainty and the site could be given some much needed love.
Efforts to improve the reserve have been going on for nearly a decade. Several market managers have worked with volunteers to get permission from the council to plant trees and establish seating around the reserve. Members of the wider community planted and looked after native trees in difficult and dry conditions. Their efforts are slowly paying off. Newly shaded areas are becoming very popular places for community recreation, including picnicking families visiting the markets.
There is hope for more positive changes like: painting murals on the grey toilet block, more trees and benches, paving and landscaping the dusty areas, and providing all weather access to parking in the area west of the market site. This site has room for growth, creativity and positive change.
The latest plan proposed by council is to relocate the market into the town streets, the Railway Park and the railway tracks (which will be retained as a transport corridor). This amounts to a dispersal into an uncertain place and future.
The proposed urban, post-industrial setting is a claustrophobic vision which would destroy the uniqueness, integrity and flavour of the existing experience and may not be entirely popular with all the existing businesses in town including the Artisan Markets held at the Railway Park already.
The excuse given is that the only place for a new bus station is The Butler Street Reserve, right next to the nursing home with a long access road dissecting the reserve. Meanwhile the old train station, an obvious place for a transport/bus station, remains idle.
At a recent meeting between council officials and stallholders it was quite obvious that the consultation for this plan has been selective and that it does not include key stakeholders. The economic, cultural, social and environmental value of the Byron Bay Community Market at the Butler Street Reserve has been ignored and the plan has being presented to the intimidated stakeholders as a fate accompli because the council has funding. Surely the funding can be kept while a more reasonable site be renegotiated?