Hedin Manus Brugh got his start selling potted plants on a blanket at the Wayne Morse Terrace across from the officially sanctioned Saturday Market. Years later, the tall, wizardly artisan makes magic wands, fairy doors, divination boards and more — to sell not only locally but also at venues such as Faerieworlds.
Brugh is disturbed at changes that have been put into place at the organic gathering of vendors and drum circle that takes place each weekend at the terrace. He worries these changes could affect others in what he calls his “street family” as well as his ability to donate his wares to organizations helping the homeless.
With little fanfare or advance notice, Eugene and Lane County rolled out new requirements for what were once unofficial vendors. On April 6, the date of the first Saturday Market of 2019, vendors such as Brugh were required to have a $25 permit in order to sell at the terrace on Saturdays.
On March 20 and 21 respectively, County Administrator Steve Mokrohisky and City Manager Jon Ruiz signed an “Intergovernmental Agreement for Collaborative Management of the Public Square Area, Eugene, Oregon.”
The IGA governs the area known as the Park Blocks with its streets and parks and includes the county’s Wayne Morse Terrace, all of which also sit inside the city’s Downtown Activity Zone. The DAZ permits allow commercial pursuits in the area bounded by the center lines of 6th Avenue, Lincoln Street, 11th Avenue and High Street.
Brugh says when he got to the Wayne Morse Terrace early Saturday morning, he found not only a police presence but two surveillance trailers sporting cameras overhead. According to a press release from the Eugene Police Department, touting three arrests, the Guardian Trailers helped spot one man smoking weed, another man who sold marijuana baked goods to a minor, and a third man with a probation violation and an assault 4 charge.
Brugh says vendors were not allowed to use tents to shield them from the rain, nor was the drum circle allowed to take place under a popup canopy. “Some of the drums are made of wood and animal skin,” Brugh explains, and exposure to rain would damage them. He speculates that the restrictions were put into place to allow the police to use the trailers’ high-mounted cameras to surveil the area.
According to the permit information from the city, vendors may not “use tables, umbrellas, or other items unless clearly authorized by the permit.” Brugh says this restriction winds up punishing everyone, pointing to not only drums getting wet, but delicate items for sale as well. He says it also leaves the vendors themselves exposed to the elements.
City Councilor Emily Semple, who tried to get the word out about the permits after finding out about them, says she’s working “to think of ways to make this better.” This includes possibly supplying a sturdy canopy to shield future drum circles. This doesn’t help the vendors, she says, but the restrictions on popups and canopies are to prevent a strong wind from blowing them away and possibly injuring someone. Saturday Market booths have a wood frame, according to a plan on the market website, and don’t have that risk of easily tumbling away.
Semple says she is trying to understand why there was a delay in informing vendors and others of the new permitting rules. The IGA was written in January and signed in March but she says, “Nobody knew until a week before it happened.”
In an email, Lindsey Selser, communications analyst with the city’s Planning and Development Department, writes that the “Wayne Morse Terrace permit requirement is very limited — it applies only on Saturdays and applies solely to sales, it does not apply to any other uses of the Wayne Morse Terrace, such as the drum circle or public speeches.”
She adds, “In prior years, the unregulated sales occurring in the Wayne Morse Terrace on Saturdays made it difficult for others seeking to use the public area for more traditional free speech activities.” Selser also says that by adding “this minimal regulatory structure for sales” in the terrace the county “anticipates that more people will get to enjoy this public space.”
Brugh points out that while $25 may be a small fee, it could be a big hurdle to a vendor who is already spending money on supplies and possibly unable to afford housing. He worries that with restrictions on selling, and “messing with the market” he will not be able to donate to places such as Community Supported Shelters, Opportunity Village and Nightingale Health Sanctuary as he has done in the past.
“They are trying to monopolize the Park Blocks,” he says, “calling it an expansion.”
Meanwhile, County Commissioner Pete Sorenson says he is looking to make a different set of changes to the Free Speech Plaza at the Wayne Morse Terrace — he wants to lift the 6 am to 11 pm restrictions on its use.
Sorenson says on April 9 the Lane County Board of Commissioners discussed whether or not to have a work session on his proposal that the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza should be open to free speech at all hours of the day and night.