As part of the Mobile Vending Program, Food Truck Thursdays (FTT) was launched in 2016. Following the purchase of the former Wild Rapids Waterslide Park, the Town of Sylvan Lake debated the idea of moving FTT to the new lakeside property for the 2017 season during a regular Meeting of Council Monday evening.
The weekly event was initially situated on 50A Avenue between 51 Street and Centennial Street. The initiative was proposed by the Business Recruitment Team (BRT) in an attempt to draw additional traffic to the downtown core. According to Parks Manager for the Town of Sylvan Lake, Lee Furlotte – FTT ran for a twenty-week period during the summer months and experienced great success in terms of visitation and drawing traffic to the area.
“However, from the operational perspective, the selected site was not ideal and presented staff with operational challenges in regards to set-up/dismantling, and lack of storage,” explained Furlotte to Council. “The coordination of FTT required the involvement of various Town departments to ensure that vendors were licensed, road closures were published and closed accordingly, table set-up, the site was cleaned and roads were re-opened by the end of evening.”
During the year-end review of the Mobile Vending program in November 2016, Council requested some additional services/amenities be available to further the FTT experience for Town residents and patrons. Among the list of notable improvements, the following were requested: additional tables, umbrellas, porta potties and hand wash stations.
On June 26, 2016, the Town of Sylvan Lake announced the acquisition of the old Waterslide property. During the 2017 budget deliberations, Council approved a budget of $100,000 to make the parcel a passive park in the interim until the planning stages and overall vision of the park are determined.
As Mobile Vending and FTT continue to expand, additional operational obligations also continue to increase. ln 2016, operational expenses among Public Works and the Parks Department surpassed $10,000, which was absorbed through the core operating budgets.
Furlotte explained if the location remains the same in 2017, it is anticipated that operational expenses will continue to increase with the additional desired service levels (i.e. longer set-up and takedown times for tables and umbrellas, lack of on-site storage will result in increased travel times, increase in maintenance checks and cleaning of porta potties). There will also be a notable increase in goods/supplies with the purchase of additional equipment (tables, umbrellas and hand wash station, as well as an increase in contracted services with the weekly rentals of porta potties
“One of the advantages of relocating FTT to the new Lakefront property is that there would be suitable amenities to allow vending to occur multiple days a week or for the program to be incorporated with other events supported by the Town, such as Art in the Park, busking, the Summer Cinema Series, Canada Day,” added Furlotte. “The utilization of the Lakefront property for mobile vending would eliminate the need for weekly road closures and Public Works involvement in the program.
“A reduction in operational expenses from Parks would also occur, as picnic tables are readily available in the green space and the amount of time for set-up and dismantling would be minimal. The site allows for safe access in and out of the grounds for vendors, pedestrians and maintenance vehicles.”
He detailed how the existing building on the lakefront property could provide storage space for equipment as well as the ability for patrons to access a full-serviced washroom rather than utilizing porta potties. He added the parking lot on-site would significantly increase the accessibility to the program and the adjacent green space with views of the lake making for an ideal venue to host the FTT program.
“On the other hand, the 50a Avenue location was a desired location from the point of view of the Business Recruitment Team in that it was an attempt to revitalize the downtown core and in particular to positively impact the businesses on Centennial Street,” said Furlotte on the downfalls of moving the event. “As a result of the surveys that were carried out by staff relating to mobile vending, the 50a Avenue location was for the most part considered to positively affect the local businesses by way of additional local foot traffic, coupled with the fact that there was adequate parking nearby. However, there were some complaints relating to the inconvenience of road closures as well as adverse effects of fumes from the vendors’ generators.”
Discussions around the idea of moving FTT programming to the lakefront property began with Councillor Megan Chernoff indicating she felt the Business Recruitment Team’s opinion should be held highly regarded in the matter.
Councillor Dale Plante stated he felt that if they were to move FTT to the lakeside location that it would defeat much of the purpose of the event, which was to draw traffic to the Centennial Street businesses. Councillor Chris Lust echoed Plante’s sentiments stating the main reason for the event was to support downtown businesses. Councillor Matt Prete added he loved the idea of being able to reduce costs associated with FTT programming by switching locations, but felt the move would kill the initial reasoning for the weekly event. Councillor Graham Parsons stated he felt consistency with the event is also important and felt one more year of consistency would be beneficial.
Mayor Sean McIntyre stated, “The great thing about Food Truck Thursdays is that it has been drawing people south on Centennial Street and into the area where local businesses are benefiting from that foot traffic. Seeing the positive results from the survey [of downtown businesses conducted after the 2016 FTT season] I really think sticking in the 50a Avenue location is something we ought to give serious consideration to. At this point in time, I am not supportive of moving Food Truck Thursdays to the new lakefront property.”
Councillor Megan Chernoff moved to direct Town staff to consult with the Business Recruitment Team, Waterfront Direct Control Comittee, as well as the public and affected business owners to bring back a report to Council at the February 13 regular Council meeting.
The motion was effectively defeated by unanimous vote with the overall consensus among councillors being to keep the location the same for this year.