Food trucks, kayaks, cold beverages — the possibilities for park vendors are endless.
During a May 4 meeting, Woodinville City Council discussed policy issues and parameters of a potential program to allow vending in city parks. In a discussion with the Public Spaces Commission last summer, representatives were in favor of a formal parks vending program to support businesses and increase activity in parks.
Historically, the city has executed most long-term contracts with vendors who sold food, non-alcoholic beverages and small snack items via small concession stands or food trucks. Vendors have primarily operated at the Woodinville Sports Fields, the former Carol Edwards Center and Rotary Park, according to the staff report.
“I think it’s important to note that those attempts at longer-term vending over the past 15 years has been less than successful,” Assistant to the City Manager Alex Herzog said.
Herzog noted that no city-approved vendors, regardless of location or products offered, have expressed desire to operate longer. He said no one has requested vendor agreements beyond one year of service. In fact, most vendors ceased operations after six months.
“Sales just didn’t reach the level that could sustain operations or be profitable,” he said.
Additionally, the city has not received specific requests from park patrons or residents for vending services.
Herzog said there has been no longer-term vending at Woodinville parks in approximately the last four years. However, the city sporadically receives inquiries from new vendors about operating in parks. He suggested the idea of allowing rental equipment vendors for park goers and trail users.
During the public space discussion last July, commissioners were in favor of rental recreational equipment as well as food and beverage products. The group was opposed to allowing alcohol sales, the staff report said.
Councilmember Al Taylor expressed opposition to a potential vending program, citing concerns about bringing in competition for stable brick-and-mortar businesses. He was also worried about issues with parking and litter.
According to Councilmember Rachel Best-Campbell, bringing in a program without a demonstrated need could “destroy the parks.” She was opposed to the idea of adding more to an open space without specific requests to do so.
“I don’t want to see the parks become a place for commercial activity,” Best-Campbell said. “That’s not what they are for.”
On the other hand, Councilmember Les Rubstello liked the idea of giving small businesses a chance to get started at the vending level. He argued in favor of adding longer-term food trucks or vendors to entice bikers and walkers on the Sammamish River Trail to stop and spend some time in Woodinville.
Councilmember Mike Millman also shared apprehension about increases in litter due to food vendors. He said open spaces should be more tranquil than commercialized. However, he was interested in the possibility of vendors for recreational equipment, similar to how Bothell offers kayaks and boat rentals.
With worries about parking, Councilmember Susan Boundy-Sanders agreed with Millman about the potential for rental equipment vendors at Woodinville parks. She compared this idea to an existing program with kayak and paddle board rentals at Green Lake Park in Seattle. She wants to see this program give Wilmont Gateway Park “a sense of place” in the community.
Council did not take action at the meeting.