Legislators approve $30 fee for state recreation lands, open spaces
April 26, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
Outdoors enthusiasts could start paying $30 to park at state trailheads and use state parks starting in July.
In a party-line vote April 21, the state House of Representatives passed legislation to create a Discover Pass for state parks and open spaces, including Lake Sammamish State Park and Tiger Mountain State Forest near Issaquah. The state Senate passed the measure in a bipartisan vote the previous day.
The legislation now heads to the governor. Gov. Chris Gregoire also proposed a user fee for state parks in a proposed budget released in December.
Once the legislation reaches the governor’s desk, she has 20 days to sign the measure into law.
Users could use the annual Discover Pass to park at trailheads and other state-managed lands. For users uninterested in the annual parking pass, the legislation proposes a $10 day-use fee for using the lands. Otherwise, violators could face a ticket.
The proposal attracted broad support from outdoor recreation groups, including the Washington Trails Association.
“I applaud the legislators for their leadership in creating the Discover Pass,” state Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark said in a statement. “With no room in the general fund for recreation funding, our choice was a user’s pass or closing parks and recreation opportunities on state lands.”
If the legislation is signed into law, the agencies responsible for public recreation lands throughout the state — the departments of Natural Resources, and Fish and Wildlife, as well as the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission — need to sort out implementation at recreation sites.
Bryan Flint, a Department of Natural Resources spokesman, said the agencies already started collaborating to determine ideas for enforcing the rule and marketing the Discover Pass.
The agencies also plan to conduct outreach to educate users about the change if the bill turns to law.
“Nobody’s going to get fined on July Fourth weekend for not having a pass,” Flint added.
If Gregoire decides against the recreation fee, agencies could close state lands to public access in order to cut costs. Squak Mountain State Park near Issaquah faces closure from July through 2013 as legislators scramble to patch a $5.1 billion hole in the 2011-13 budget.
State natural resources agencies need to generate about $70 million in order to make up for the lack of state general fund dollars.
Issaquah’s delegation in Olympia split mostly along party lines on the measure. State Sen. Steve Litzow, a freshman 41st Legislative District Republican, backed the legislation. (Issaquah sprawls across the 5th, 41st and 48th legislative districts.)
House Republicans unanimously opposed the measure. GOP representatives said lawmakers in future years could dip into the funds designated for recreation for other purposes.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.