By Mary Ann Bragg | Cape Cod Online
Food trucks won’t be allowed in the Cape Cod National Seashore this summer but might be there next year.
The Cape Cod National Seashore denied a request by Truro food-truck vendor Joseph Rugo to operate at several government-owned locations within the boundaries of the 44,000-acre park. His request was the first in several years and Seashore Superintendent George Price said he needs to fully understand the management issues before allowing the food trucks.
After being turned down by both Truro and the Seashore, Rugo turned to the town of Wellfleet. Late last month, he received permission from the Board of Selectmen to operate at the town-owned Baker’s Field, near Mayo Beach, through the summer.
His first day in Wellfleet was Thursday but he still has his eye on other sites.
“Ideally, I’d like to be at the National Seashore next year,” he said last week.
The Seashore, with boundaries crossing the six outermost towns on the Cape, was visited by 4.5 million people in 2013, according to National Park Service statistics. In 2013, the park was ranked the 13th busiest, out of 369 National Park Service facilities nationwide.
Rugo’s would not be the first food truck in a national park. Because Hurricane Sandy decimated the concessions stands at Gateway National Recreation Area in New York and New Jersey in 2012, officials there allowed six food trucks in a section of the park known as Sandy Hook the following summer. Otherwise, visitors would have had to drive seven or eight miles and leave the park for something to drink, Karen Edelman, from the Gateway business management office said.
This year on Sandy Hook, there will be eight food trucks, she said. Although they are temporary solutions, the trucks are critical for visitors, and the trucks were quick to mobilize, particularly in 2013, she said.
“We’re learning as we go,” Edelman said Wednesday. “It was a matter of necessity.”
National Seashore officials need to study the potential competition a food truck would create for the park’s existing food concessions, as well as the impact on natural resources and litter, Price said. Also, the Seashore’s concessions management specialist Angela Harris is new to her job and will need about a year to get up to speed on the issue, he said.
It is up to the superintendent of each park to decide whether to allow food trucks, Price said.
“Angela — and we — need to understand it before we entertain it,” Price said.
For Rugo, the discussion at the Seashore with Harris “went pretty far” to the point of talking about menus, music and electricity.
“So I really thought it was going to happen. Then (Harris) said, ‘We met with the superintendent, so not this year,'” Rugo said.
This is Rugo’s first food truck business but he told the Wellfleet selectmen in June that he has been working in the food industry for many years. He sells tacos with Jamaican and Asian flavors, smoothies, Mexican street corn and other inexpensive food, catering mostly to the town recreation department’s daily activities and evening concerts.
At Baker’s Field at around 1 p.m. on Thursday, Rugo attached a flag to the top of his green truck and within a few minutes a handful of people were lined up at the window.
“I’ve been trying to get into Provincetown, Truro and Wellfleet,” he said. “It’s not easy to start a business. There’s lots of hurdles and lots of things the towns need.”
The town of Provincetown does not allow food trucks, licensing agent Aaron Hobart said.
Truro has licensed three this summer, according to the town’s licensing agent, Nicole Tudor. One, which sells ice cream, is mobile, one is fixed on private property, and one is fixed on town property, Tudor said. The truck on town property is awarded a contract by competitive bid and at $25 for 2014 was the only and highest bidder, she said.
Wellfleet has a total of five food trucks or ice cream vendors licensed by the town this summer, including Rugo, licensing agent Jeanne Maclauchlan said. One is on private property on Route 6, and one is Rugo’s. Two ice cream trucks are on town property, at White Crest Beach and at Newcomb Hollow Beach, and one ice cream truck is at the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, Maclauchlan said.
For this summer, Wellfleet will be paid $2,800 to $3,600 by each of the two vendors at the town-managed beaches, said beach Administrator Suzanne Grout Thomas. The contracts for use of town property are awarded through competitive bids.
The selectmen had discussed on June 10 having a competitive bid process for Rugo but the board decided instead to allow him to go ahead for the rest of the summer with his proposal, for a pro-rated $2,500 concession fee, Board of Selectmen Chairman Paul Pilcher said Tuesday.
The fee is prorated because the summer season had already begun, Pilcher said.
Rugo said at the June 10 selectmen’s meeting that he welcomes other food trucks at the Baker’s Field venue.