There will be food trucks in city parks this spring. They will bring a new vitality to some neglected parks. They can improve safety in neighborhoods by adding eyes to the streets and getting folks out of their homes. In some neighborhoods the restaurants have closed, and with them an important community building tool. Food trucks in parks can help bring this back, strengthening neighborhoods and opening the door to reinvestment.

Last year Abby Miller and Tommy Pacello of the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team and Maria Fuhrman, special assistant to Mayor Wharton, convened Aubrey Howard of the permits office and Joseph Lee of the parks department with members of the Memphis Food Truck Association. Our goal was to put in place a mechanism to enable food trucks to operate in city parks.

While the food truck ordinance provides that food trucks can operate in city parks with permission, that last part was tricky. There was no one to call and no form to complete if a food truck wanted a permit to operate in a park. Police were known to give operators the boot from parks because of this.

Shelby Farms and Overton Park conservancies had been working with food trucks almost since the ordinance passed in 2010. As the only two parks operated by conservancies, they had the staff and flexibility to manage the process to great success. Natalie Wilson from Shelby Farms says Sunday afternoon food truck rodeos are one of the weekly park highlights.

Now other city parks can join the party. Food truck operators who wish to sell in city parks must complete an application and comply with certain insurance requirements and local noise ordinances. This spring is going to be a little bit tastier, thanks to all the hard work of everyone involved.