Mayor’s approval of Viking Tour move irks downtown merchants, spurs compromise plan

Council member Connie Lord said any major change in a special event application needs to go through the committee and council for approval

POULSBO – The Viking Tour, which takes place during Viking Fest weekend, will likely move from Viking Avenue to downtown Poulsbo this year.

The City Council is scheduled to vote May 10 on a compromise plan worked out by downtown merchants, tour sponsor Poulsbo/North Kitsap Rotary Club, and a council committee after Mayor Becky Erickson signed off on the move — a decision that the committee chairwoman said should have been made by the City Council.

Downtown merchants said staging the event at Little Anderson Parkway, as Erickson had authorized, would further congest Front Street during the busiest weekend of the year.

The council’s Community Services Committee met on May 3 to facilitate discussion of a compromise. The compromise they’ll propose to the council: That the tour be staged on the City Hall plaza, on Moe Street next to City Hall, and in the Edward Jones parking lot on Jensen Way.

The event is scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. May 21; 400 cyclists are expected. (Gov. Jay Inslee rode in the 2016 tour.)

According to draft minutes of the committee meeting, Chairwoman Connie Lord said the council did not know that Viking Tour had been moved from Viking Avenue to downtown and that any major change in a special event application needs to go through the committee and council for approval.

Erickson said she approved the change in event location because the original site — the North Kitsap Fishline parking lot — was unavailable as construction on Fishline’s comprehensive services center might be underway then.

Erickson’s decision prompted the Historic Downtown Poulsbo Association to protest in a letter to the mayor and City Council on April 25.

“The 2016 Viking Tour was in a spectacular location,” the association’s letter states. “It had easy access without causing business or residential access interruption, and the [location] of Viking Tour on Viking Avenue was a tremendous measure to revitalize Viking Avenue.”

Staging the beginning of the Viking Tour on Little Anderson Parkway would result in “a complete choking off of the area. Any possible parking or access, including handicapped, is taken by the transient vendors of [Viking Fest], which now have nearly doubled from just a few years ago, and access to the other parking area on King Olav is taken by the carnival.”

According to the committee minutes, Lord pointed to other issues: loss of parking, and having a beer garden near other bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.

Parking is at a premium during Viking Fest. The Port of Poulsbo parking lot is used for handicapped parking. Vendors park in the Cascade Specialty Pharmacy parking lot. Most of Anderson Parkway is used by Viking Fest.

Under the Viking Tour plan to be presented to the council, a beer garden and music will be located on the City Hall plaza. Participants will have access to City Hall restrooms, but no alcohol will be allowed in the building. The non-competitive cycling tour will begin and end on Moe Street.

According to the minutes, all participants in the meeting went to the mayor’s third-floor office “to look down on the Moe Street layout … The Police Chief is OK with closing off Moe Street.”

In an interview with Kitsap News Group, Erickson said the Viking Tour is good for Rotary and its causes; the 2016 event raised about $20,000, she said. “It’s all dedicated to bolstering the charitable efforts of Rotary,” Erickson said. Those efforts include Rotary Park, Morrow Manor, and removal of a house to make way for expansion of Fish Park.

But at the meeting, Lord warned that in the future, when there is a change in event location, it must come to the committee earlier in the process.