A new Prince George's County restriction could threaten College Park's Downtown and Hollywood farmers market by requiring vendors to use tents that are flame-resistant and certified by the National Fire Protection Agency.
The approved canopies must meet the NFPA's textile standards and have an NFPA label, Julie Beavers, market manager for the city's farmers markets, said at Tuesday's College Park City Council meeting. The Prince George's County fire marshal is in charge of enforcing the restriction, she added.
Beavers said not all city vendors can afford the cost of these canopies, which sell for about $200 on Amazon.
"This expense is too much for them," Beavers said. "It could be a problem."
Though Beavers said the rule is supposed to be enforced, she's not sure what will come of it this farmers market season.
The farmers markets will open for the season in late April.
In addition to concern over the canopy restriction, the council discussed how the farmers markets can expand outreach so attendance does not drop so heavily when students leave for the summer.
District 2 councilman P.J. Brennan said before Tuesday's meeting that the downtown location particularly struggles during summer months.
"When the students go away for the summer, all of the demand goes with them," he said.
Still, Brennan remained optimistic about business for that location.
"With the advent of the new student complexes like Terrapin Row and the Landmark, we're hoping we'll see students sticking around," he said. He added that many students and city residents might not be aware of the value of the farmers markets.
The city plans to use Facebook advertising "to help students become aware" of the city's farmers markets said Ryan Chelton, the city's economic development coordinator. Chelton has also reached out to the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center to see if student musicians would like to practice or perform in front of crowds at the city's farmers markets.
The city also plans to expand its advertising efforts with business cards that have coupons for each of the vendors on the back, and will hang posters in Terrapin Row and other high-rises on campus, Beavers said.
"We are definitely catered to our students — and I don't mind it, I love it," Beavers said.
Staff writer Laura Spitalniak contributed to this report.
CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the National Fire Protection Agency had created the canopy restriction. Prince George's County will now require farmers market vendors to comply with NFPA guidelines. This article has been updated.