Members of the Lithia Artisans Market would like to move to a more visible location to sell their wares — but they face significant hurdles in finding a new home.

Members of the Lithia Artisans Market would like to move to a more visible location to sell their wares — but they face significant hurdles in finding a new home.

The market has operated for 29 years on the Calle Guanajuato, a pedestrian walkway along Ashland Creek that is located behind downtown Plaza businesses, according to Manager Marcus Scott.

The market is open on weekends from early April to mid-November.

It has gradually lost spaces along the walkway to restaurants that offer creekside dining.

Members also have seen the success of the Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters Market, which last year began operating in a highly visible location on Oak Street in downtown Ashland on Saturdays.

Some Lithia Artisans Market members also sell at the growers and crafters market.

"Because of increased visibility, those vendors are reporting sales on Oak Street that far surpass the typical sales on Calle Guanajuato," Scott wrote in an April letter to city officials.

Since sending the letter, artisans market representatives have been making the rounds of various city meetings, hoping to persuade officials to let the market relocate or expand.

The Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission declined to consider a proposal to let vendors set up on a sidewalk abutting a big lawn at the entrance to Lithia Park.

Commercial activity is banned in Lithia Park. The only exception is that the Lions Club is allowed to sell frozen treats as a fundraiser during Ashland City Band concerts at the Butler Bandshell in the park, said Parks Director Don Robertson.

Robertson said parks commissioners long have stuck to a policy that Lithia Park is a place for fun and relaxation, not commercial activity.

City officials did work with the artisans market to allow them to use a city parking lot near the Calle Guanajuato.

However, vendor Susan Wells said the parking lot is hot, and the only people who seem to go there are people using nearby restrooms or taking trash to garbage containers.

Artisans market members also have proposed shutting down one section of the street that encircles the Plaza.

They would set up in the closed-off space, causing the loss of nine parking spaces.

Scott said he personally canvassed downtown businesses that would be affected. He said he found that 40 percent support the proposal, 30 percent like the idea but not the loss of parking spaces, about 15 to 20 percent are ambivalent and 8 to 10 percent are opposed.

"As a lifelong resident of Ashland, I have always envisioned the Plaza as an open, multi-use space that offers access to Lithia Park while also serving as a place of entertainment, dining and commerce," Scott wrote in his April letter to city officials.

"I love the vision of a revitalized townscape that is more pedestrian-friendly and believe our proposal will help make that vision a reality," he wrote.

Lithia Artisans Market representatives have floated the idea to close off a section of the street encircling the Plaza at recent workshops on concepts for redesigning the Plaza.

But they've been told that the Plaza redesign is only about the Plaza island itself, not the encircling street and parking spaces.

Vendors also have suggested setting up booths on the sidewalk near the Sesame Asian Kitchen restaurant on Winburn Way, which is around a corner from the Calle Guanajuato, in a more visible spot.

City rules restrict commerce in the public right-of-way, which includes sidewalks and roads, Ashland Management Analyst Ann Seltzer said.

The artisans market likely would need to win approval for a conditional-use permit to use public spaces such as sidewalks or street sections, Seltzer said.

She said granting the market use of a different public space would be a complex process.

Reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.