Could food trucks increase Schoodic-area dining options?

GOULDSBORO — You wouldn’t need a reservation. You could sit in the comfort of your car. Better yet, enjoy your burger, tacos, lobster roll, breakfast sandwich or other to-go fare while taking in the panoramic view of Cadillac Mountain west across Frenchman Bay and the distant Petit Manan Lighthouse to the east.

That’s the thinking of the Schoodic Chamber of Commerce, which has launched an initiative to explore the option of having food trucks operate on the Schoodic Peninsula, where the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has strained the less than a dozen existing eating establishments and discouraged closed restaurants from reopening. Since the onset of COVID-19 nearly two years ago, some enterprises pivoted and switched to operating strictly takeout service and limited their hours of operation. In some cases, additional outdoor seating was created, but diners were spaced apart in adherence to state and federal guidelines.

Intensifying the situation has been the great influx of out-of-state visitors seeking refuge and pandemic relief in wildly beautiful, sparsely populated destinations such as the Schoodic Peninsula. Eastern Hancock County, with its proximity to Acadia National Park’s Schoodic District, is among many areas, where eating options are limited. Innkeepers, B&Bs and Airbnb proprietors have been affected too by the limited dining options to refer guests to.

“The pickings on the Schoodic Peninsula have never been overly generous, but there was not enough this year,” chamber member Don Ashmall observed last week. A Gouldsboro resident, the retired pastor was tasked with researching food truck-related regulations in his town. He discovered there were no rules specifically addressing mobile food service vehicles such as trucks or carts in the town’s ordinance.

Ashmall witnessed the dining issue firsthand last summer in Winter Harbor. At Fisherman’s Galley Restaurant, he served as the Hot Dog Cart’s cashier and lobster-hatted emcee, waving to motorists. He said visitors couldn’t get enough fresh haddock sandwiches, Italian sausages, lobster rolls and other fare and any restaurant closures only increased demand.

“It’s great to have a monopoly, but that’s not great for tourists,” Ashmall quipped. On some days, he said the stationary hot-dog cart was the only option for tourists.

In Winter Harbor, Planning Board Chairman Denny O’Brien says his town also lacks any specific rules governing food trucks. He is aware of the area’s limited dining options as an issue and the board plans to further scrutinize its ordinances to determine of there are any relevant regulations.

“All my sons have cooked professionally; they are all foodies, and they love food trucks,” O’Brien related last week. Still, he said the Winter Harbor board would need to gauge local residents’ views about out-of-town mobile food enterprises. “As a Planning Board, we serve the community, we don’t tell the community.”

At their meeting last week, Gouldsboro selectmen encouraged town Infrastructure Superintendent Jim McLean to further research the issue and confer with Winter Harbor so the two Schoodic Peninsula towns have a consistent approach. They recognized the dining issue but noted the potential presence of food trucks raises many issues such as parking and waste disposal, to name a few. At present, Gouldsboro does not allow commercial businesses on town property.

Letitia Baldwin

Arts Editor at The Ellsworth American
In addition to editing the Arts & Leisure section, Letitia edits special sections including Out & About, Overview, Health Quarterly, Your Maine Home, House & Garden and Get Ready for Winter. She comes from Chicago, Ill, but has deep family ties to the Cranberry Isles. [email protected]

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