Merritt’s council looks to clear the way street festivals

By on March 13, 2018
Merritt’s Buffalo Gals perform a special routine at the Merritt Mountain Music Festival Streetmall in 2009. The Chamber of Commerce promoted a "Street Party" on Quilchena Avenue in 2017, as a spiritual successor to the popular Streetmalls of years past. (Herald files).


Coun. Diana Norgaard

Instead of cars, Merritt’s city council hopes downtown streets will be filled with buskers, artists, artisans and vendors this summer.

At the regular council meeting on March 13, councillors voted in favour of exploring ways to help downtown businesses close off city streets on summer evenings to create more pedestrian-friendly areas.

Though the motion only directs city staff to prepare a report outlining which — if any — bylaws needed to be changed in order to allow for the shutdown of a downtown block, Coun. Diana Norgaard said she hoped her motion would help to clear a path for businesses to take the initiative.

“We can’t force a street mall, we can’t set it up and organize it. … That’s outside of our mandate,” Norgaard told the Herald. “But I wanted to make sure that none of our bylaws would get in the way of them doing it, if they chose to do it.”

Specifically, Norgaard’s motion called for city staff to examine what changes would be necessary to allow the closure of one downtown block to traffic, one day per week from April to the end of October.

Staff was also instructed to look at any current city bylaws regarding buskers, artists, artisans and street cafes to determine if changes were needed.

Finally, the report prepared by staff will detail potential costs to the city for a street closure, which might include things like installing barricades, towing and traffic control measures.

The hope, said Norgaard, is that pedestrian-friendly areas would encourage more foot traffic in Merritt’s downtown area in the evenings or on weekends. It’s an idea pulled from a webinar series called “The Resurgence of Downtowns,” which is available to local businesses by request through the City of Merritt.

The motion was passed unanimously by council.

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