food trucks

Where Should Food Trucks Park in Portland? The City Wants the Public to Weigh In

The Maine city's food truck pilot program has led to debate over the best place for the trucks to safely park

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According to city officials in Portland, Maine, at least 1,000 people have already responded to a survey about where to put food trucks in a public park there.

For months, the issue over where the trucks can and should be parked has been at a steady boil after a lottery to select trucks in a pilot program led to protests, then to an expanded pilot.

That model, selected by Portland’s city manager, was applied over the summer and moved the trucks from a previous location at the top of a hill along a street overlooking the Eastern Promenade Park to a parking lot closer to the bottom of the hill.

The decision came after concerns were raised about noise, safety and trash, some of which were highlighted by area residents during public meetings.

But an outcry criticizing the move to the lot has continued from summer into fall, with some truck operators like the owners of Falafel Mafia saying they intend to show Portland officials that they lost a significant amount of money because of the change.

“Sometimes we’re only doing 30% of what we were doing before,” said Dylan Gardner,  one of that truck's co-owners, during a September interview with NECN & NBC10 Boston, adding that the moment the trucks moved the amount of money coming in "just cut right off."

"We’re talking thousands and thousands of dollars not just for us, but our employees," he added.

Gardner also said he planned to show this loss to city officials at a later date.

Because of the ongoing back-and-forth, city officials decided to launch the survey, with a version for the public and one for truck operators to collect public input ahead of next year’s peak season.

In a sign the debate over where to put the trucks remains very alive, Jessica Grondin, the communications director for the City of Portland, said that more than 1,000 people had taken the survey after it had only been posted for about 24 hours.

"It’s great to see that people are interested," she said, adding that city staff had come up with the questions based on concerns that had come to their attention.

"We knew there were issues with safety, with traffic, with trash, with accessibility," she said of the old site.

Over the summer and into fall, people who have visited either the pilot or former truck location have had different opinions of the change.

Some like a woman named Heidi from Pownal, Maine said the lot “feels more like a community spot.”

"I think that it’s nice...the parking is really convenient as well," she added.

Other visitors, like Rachelle Gagne, of South Portland, who owns an online business called wearekineo.com, said some certainty like location is important for any business trying to be successful, adding that she didn’t "want to ruffle any feathers but I preferred it up here."

"It made it a really fun time for my son, my husband and I," she said, explaining that they "would come up here and make an evening of it and I think people miss out a little bit."

Gagne also noted that some of her family who joined her at the Eastern Promenade on Tuesday did not notice the food truck pilot lot right away because it was not visible from the area they were spending time in.

No matter what your opinion of the food truck is, anyone who wants to take the survey on the City of Portland website can do so until 4:30 p.m. on October 14.

“We’re certainly going to incorporate it into our discussions as we move forward,” said Grondin, adding that the city intends to hold meetings on the food truck pilot through the fall so it can submit a recommended plan for the 2023 summer season as quickly as possible.

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