Civic beat: Coming to a park near you: Food trucks?

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March 26, 2012
By: Nick Halter
Nick Halter
As the mobile food-vending scene in the Twin Cities continues to gain steam, the Minneapolis Park Board is preparing to offer an invitation for the trucks to roll into several city parks this summer.

A Park Board committee was scheduled discuss a pilot program on March 21 that would allow food trucks to operate in 16 city parks.

The pilot program has another goal: Trying to attract several food trucks to the same park on Fridays, perhaps making the weekly events open to music, movies and, in some cases, beer.

The Park Board won’t allow the food trucks into parks where it already contracts with restaurants, such as Tin Fish at Lake Calhoun and Sea Salt Eatery at Minnehaha Park.

The 10 parks that would be open to daily use include: Mill Ruins, Father Hennepin Bluff, Lake Nokomis, Bryn Mawr, Wabun, North Mississippi, Webber, Northeast Park, Theodore Wirth Beach and Bossen.

Nine parks would be available for the Friday event idea: Parade Park, Calhoun Executive Center, East River Flats, Bohemian Flats, Boom Island, Mill Ruins, Lake Nokomis, Webber and Theodore Wirth Beach.

The event idea would also allow East River Flats to become a tailgating destination before Gopher football games.

The Park Board would set limits on the number of trucks allowed in each park, depending on park size and parking availability. For instance, Northeast Park would only be allowed two trucks, but Theodore Wirth would be allowed eight.

Trucks would have to pay a daily fee of $35 or a weekend and holiday fee of $100.

The trucks would have to be licensed by the city of Minneapolis.


Mild winter means fewer potholes

Car suspensions and bike rims are having an easier go of it this spring, as motorists and cyclists are finding city streets to be in much better condition compared to last year.

Last year, from Feb. 6 to March 12, the city’s 311 service received 917 reports of potholes, according to Matt Laible of the city’s Communications Department. This year, the city has taken only 80 calls of that nature during the same time period.

Ethan Fawley has noticed. He’s the president of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition and bikes frequently south of Downtown. He’s noticed that, in particular, 26th and 28th streets, which have notoriously bad pavement, have been in better shape this year.

The city attributes the better pavements to two factors: A mild winter with fewer freezes and thaws that cause potholes as well as added investments in street maintenance. Last year, the city had to double its pothole budget from $1 million
to $2 million.

“It’s encouraging that the city is making those investments, and we’ve had a lucky winter here,” Fawley said.


Stadium has city staff’s attention

As of mid-February, city of Minneapolis employees had spent nearly 1,400 hours working on a plan to build a new Minnesota Vikings stadium in the city.

Those numbers were made public after the city’s Community Development Committee requested a breakdown of the hours each staff member spent on stadium-related issues between Jan. 1, 2011 through Feb. 15, 2012.

The stadium bill before the Minnesota Legislature, according to interim Community Planning and Economic Development Director Chuck Lutz, would reimburse the city $200,000 for staff time, if the bill passes.

Lutz has spent 700 hours on the project. The city’s chief financial officer, Kevin Carpenter, has spent 300 hours and Convention Center Executive Director Jeff Johnson has spent 200 hours. A few others have worked on the project for less than 100 hours each.

A stadium bill got a hearing in a Minnesota Senate committee in mid-March, but thus far has not made it any further.

Reach Nick Halter at nhalter@mnpubs.com.