Canada: Food Fight Over Vendors at Maffeo-Sutton Park Raging

Maffeo Sutton Park Source: photographix
By Tamara Cunningham | Daily News

Maffeo Sutton Park Source: photographix

Some are calling for traditional fare at mobile stands; other want gourmet trucks.

June Stenning of Nanaimo believes Maffeo-Sutton Park could become a popular lunch spot with more gourmet food options.

Hungry customers looking for mobile food at Maffeo-Sutton Park had only one truck to buy from last summer, after the city phased out other vendors in preparation of a new concession stand. Not all customers were happy about the change, calling for better food options and more competitive pricing.

Some people suggested the area is ripe for a mobile food park, while others wanted to see a variety of gourmet food trucks made popular by TV shows like Eat Street and the Great Food Truck Race.

“It would be great to have food here for all tastes, not just the hamburgers and hot dogs we’re used to,” Stenning said. “And let’s face it, if we have food trucks like the ones on TV, it could be a real draw for tourists.” With the concession stand concept now on hold for a park plan review, people will get a second chance to tell city officials exactly what food options they want to see downtown.

“Two years ago, people told us they wanted a year-round concession stand, and we set out to do that,” said Richard Harding, director of parks, recreation and culture. “But as part of the review we will look at whether we should go back to the old systems of having vendors.”

There used to be several vendors serving greasy-spoon staples four years ago, according to veteran businessman Frank O’Neill. The country fair atmosphere was “very popular” with people visiting the waterfront, he said.

The city began phasing out vendors in 2009 to make way for a new concession stand identified in the Maffeo-Sutton Park Improvement Plan. City officials said last year the stand would offer healthier options for customers. Dogzilla won the contract to serve hamburgers, wraps and salads at the new venue.

That project is now under review. City council required the old Civic Arena site as parkland in 2011 and called for updates to the park improvement plan.

Pat McDonald, resident, believes the city should look at allowing more food trucks in the park, but stresses they shouldn’t all be the greasy-spoon variety.

“Fast food isn’t for everybody,” she said. “I wouldn’t mind seeing gourmet food for all tastes.”

Gui Beaudoin wonders if Nanaimo needs any food stands at all.

“We have so many restaurants and coffee shops down here already,” he said.