DELMAR — As everyone anticipates the reopening of the town’s Elm Avenue Park Pool, there is one problem that needs addressing: Where’s the food?
Visitors of the park are familiar with the concession stand under the pavilion. The stand had long been outsourced to a private vendor. The step up had provided a sort of monopoly, as the lease between the vendor and town would not allow food vending anywhere else on the park grounds. That all went for naught when the town closed the park last year on account of both the pandemic and on-going construction on the dive pool.
The new, $822,000 dive pool is scheduled to reopen this summer, whetting the appetite of the 1,000 daily visitors who come to the park each season. Due to what the parks and recreation department calls “mitigating” circumstances, there’s no vendor lined up to man the concession stand this year. Gallo said the department has advertised, but no one has yet to respond and it’s time to seek alternatives.
“At this time I believe the best course of action is to contract with multiple food truck vendors in place of one concession stand operator at the Elm Avenue Park Pool,” Jason Gallo shared with the town board through a statement on Wednesday, March 10. The parks and recreation administrator added that the growing popularity of food trucks should “make a nice compliment to the overall park user experience.”
Town board members agreed, voting unanimously to approve the application process.
The Parks and Recreation Department will create a public schedule showing what food trucks are visiting, and what type of foods they provide. The food truck schedule will be seasonal and closely mirror the pool operating schedule. Depending on menu selections, multiple trucks could be on site.
It’ll be a pilot program, Gallo said. The department will evaluate the efficacy and the safety of having the food trucks at the park. It will also reach out for feedback from residents to form what could become a long-term program.
“Food trucks in parks is something that has actually come up in discussion with various members of the board in the last couple of years,” said Gallo. “We think we can really do an excellent job and still provide those food service benefits, and still offer an overall enhancement to the park by allowing food trucks.”
The effort is focused on addressing the pending need for food at Elm Avenue Park, but the accommodations will be extended to other town parks.
Maureen McGuinness, president of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce, already believes the program could serve to be an opportunity for local businesses. She said she had previously reached out to the town board to ensure area restaurants could participate, even those without trucks.
“I was hoping that there could be preferential treatment for local restaurants, either by allowing them to apply first for the applications or at a reduced rate,” she said. “I [also] shared with the town board that few local restaurants had food trucks, but they did have catering vans.”
Town Board Member Dan Coffey asked Gallo whether applications would be exclusive to food trucks, or if the process would allow for catering vans, too. The parks and recreation administrator confirmed that consideration will “error on the side of inclusion, not exclusion.”
The town will seek an application, proof of various insurance policies and reference checks from each vendor that expresses interest. Approved food trucks will sign a contract, agreeing to a $50 weekly fee for each vehicle.