• Posted Jul 29, 2007
Des Moines Parks and Recreation is hashing out plans to allow bicycle-cart vendors in city parks and along trails. By MICHELE BROWN Register staff writer July 26, 2007 Trelen Wilson had an idea to put an old vending bicycle cart to use after he read a newspaper article a year ago about the downtown Principal Riverwalk. In the story, someone suggested selling ice cream and allowing curb vendors along the walking path. Earlier this month, the Des Moines City Council voted 7-0 to approve sales by bicycle vendors like Wilson, a 52-year-old field biologist whose other interests include marketing and dreaming up business ventures. Wilson's idea started simply. "I thought I would call up the parks department and explore the possibility" of selling ice cream via a bicycle cart, he said. The July 9 decision seemingly will give Wilson and others the green light to apply for spots to sell goods in city parks and along trails. The Parks and Recreation Department is studying the rules and regulations that would manage such concession operations, with initial areas of interest being Gray's Lake and the trail system, park officials said. Regulations being studied include restricting vending on park roads and entrances and requiring vendors to yield the right of way to park and trail users, pull off the side of trails to sell ice cream, and clean up garbage created by the vending service. Vendors also would be required to obtain permits and licenses, which would specifically be created by the parks department. Parks and Recreation Director Don Tripp said the department will also go through a bid process to select vendors. Park officials will look at what experience potential vendors have had, what products they intend to sell and at what price, and what percentage would go to the city. While Tripp said this type of concession operation would largely depend on the number of park users who buy the product, he believes there are a lot of opportunities to provide unique services to the park system. "It's important for the park system to have diverse services for people to enjoy the parks and trails, and food is a part of that," Tripp said. "We think that this service will generate park use and get more people interested in the park system." People at Gray's Lake on Saturday largely agreed that the service would be a welcome one. "I think it would be nice for adults, kids and everyone," said Charlene Stapes of Des Moines, who was there with her husband, Lloyd. Des Moines resident Ken Dohmen, who comes to the park on weekends to walk and exercise, said he has seen a similar concession operation in a downtown park in Omaha. "I kind of like that idea," Dohmen said. "It seemed to go over pretty well there." James Shoemaker of Des Moines' east side said he thought vendors would be popular during hot days, but would also like to see something other than ice cream products for the many people who come to exercise and workout. Shoemaker said the bicycle carts would work well on trails near his home. "On trails on the east side, there's nothing out there and if you have some kind of ... stand, that would be good to get more people to come out and use the trails more," he said. Parks and Recreation Services Manager Doug Romig said the ice cream vending bicycle carts would not eliminate the 40-year citywide ban on ice cream trucks. The ban was enacted in 1967 after 9-year-old Donna Lynn O'Callaghan was struck and killed by a car after buying ice cream. Romig added that the concession bicycle carts would operate only on trails and in selected parks and not on city streets. Tripp said the safety of children is a factor and the department has taken measures to address safety concerns. "These vendors will only be able to operate in areas (where) there are no automobiles," he said. Wilson said the same safety issues surrounding ice cream trucks and the citywide ban do not exist with bicycle-cart-vending operations. "It's a traffic-controlled situation," he said. "Around the parks, there isn't the street traffic separating the prospective customer and the vending operation. That type of situation doesn't exist with ice-cream bikes." Having lived in Des Moines for 30 years, Wilson said he loves the direction in which Des Moines has grown and would simply like his ice-cream vending bicycle carts to be part of that growth. "I've had some experience doing ice-cream vending in the past, and it's all about making it friendly, professional and safe," he said. "...I want to make Des Moines a much more interesting place." Reporter Michele Brown can be reached at (515) 284-8065 or

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