MACHIAS, Maine— Vendors who sell their products, crafts and food on the Route 1 dike over the Middle River shouldn’t have to pay a fee, members of the Machias Downtown Revitalization Committee said Friday.
In the summer months, dozens of vendors line the dike, particularly on Friday and Saturday, to sell fresh seafood, antiques, household goods, crafts and other items. The flea market atmosphere draws hundreds of visitors each day.
But it also generates trash and traffic concerns. At a recent MDRC meeting, some members were concerned that local businesses pay taxes, insurance and other fees while vendors on the dike pay nothing. A nominal fee was suggested but not recommended to the Machias selectmen. The issue is complicated, Machias Town Manager Chris Loughlin said, because the town does not own the dike. It is state property.
Dale Miller of the Machias Bay Area Chamber of Commerce said she was originally in favor of a fee but has reconsidered.
“I think it brings a lot of folks to town that may not necessarily come here,” she said.
Loughlin agreed, saying that it is a reason for many tourists who might pass through Machias to stop and shop.
Tim Dow has been selling sea glass jewelry on a seasonal basis at the dike for four years, he said.
“That causeway is a big economic engine,” he said. “I’m afraid that any fee would just kill it. Vendors would go somewhere else.”
Dow said that last summer some of the more permanent vendors tried to make some order out of the way people set up their wares.
“We asked them to pull their vehicles all the way back to provide better visibility,” he said. He added that much of the trash is generated by the cars that stop to shop.
“I think the dike flea market is a vital part of this community,” Dow said.
In other business, the group urged Loughlin to find a more visible location for the winter skating rink, now located off the main streets near the Machias River. County Manager Betsy Fitzgerald said that an abandoned property owned by Cherryfield Foods behind the former railroad station would be an ideal spot.
Fitzgerald said that a lighted rink could be built along with a small building that could house a restroom.
“You could have a place that would never sleep,” she said.
Loughlin said he has made repeated requests to Cherryfield Foods about the property but has not had any replies.
The committee also discussed building on the high volume of snowmobile traffic since the Sunrise Trail was completed and having some sort of winter carnival. “The potential is there,” Loughlin stated. “Winter is normally a slow time for our businesses.”
MDRC members shared that Machias’ Margaretta Day is scheduled for June 11 on the University of Maine at Machias campus, and a road rally will be in town for a few hours Aug. 13-14. The 600-mile road rally will consist of 25-30 cars traveling from Bar Harbor to Bangor on a circuitous route. The event is a fundraiser for the Patrick Dempsey Cancer Foundation. Some MDRC members suggested that Machias could host a car show for the same weekend.
The committee meets at 7 a.m. on the second Friday of each month at Helen’s Restaurant. All are welcome.