February 15, 2011
Annual pass for parks is not unreasonable
We are not a proponent of willy-nilly user fees to line the coffers of government agencies, but with voters repeatedly saying no to taxes, user fees will become more prevalent. For state parks, we support the implementation of a $30 annual Discover Pass as a solution to keep state parks open.
Washington state parks are in trouble, just as many other state agencies and services are — all part of the proposed budget cuts needed to keep the state out of bankruptcy. State parks are expected to need $64 million in the upcoming biennium.
Squak Mountain State Park atop the middle peak of the Issaquah Alps is already slated to lose funding. But that park is an array of hiking and equestrian trails that will still have public access.
Our local gem, Lake Sammamish State Park, is one of those the public would surely miss if it were closed. The boat launch, group picnic shelters, lakeside walking trails, swimming beaches, play areas, bird watching opportunities and more would all be lost. Lake Sammamish State Park is not only important to those who go there, but to the local economy and to property values that benefit from this nearby quality-of-life amenity.
It was only a short five years ago that the state dropped the $5 parking fee at state parks. The fee was in effect for three years and attendance at parks declined sharply, including here at the Lake Sammamish park.
Senate Bill 5622 would reimpose a parking fee, but would also give access to state properties maintained by the departments of Natural Resources and Fish and Wildlife. We believe the all-encompassing annual pass would be acceptable to those who use state lands for recreation. The bill allows for a $10 day-use permit as well. Those who walk or bicycle into the parks would not be charged.
Best of all, 85 percent of the funds generated by the state Discover Pass would support state parks, with the remainder going to the other two agencies.
We’re not ready to support state parks at any cost, but a $30 annual user fee seems reasonable,