Squak Mountain State Park to remain open
June 7, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
Budget prompts reduced hours, service at state park
Squak Mountain State Park’s operating hours and maintenance could be reduced, but the latest proposal from the state allows for the park to remain open.
Under a plan offered last year, Squak Mountain and other recreation sites faced a shutdown as early as July 2011. Instead, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission is considering a service reduction in order to cut costs. Under the proposal, the 1,545-acre destination for hikers and equestrian trail riders could close on weekdays.
“We know we have to make some service reductions, but we’re trying to figure out ways to have the parks not be to zero service,” commission spokeswoman Virginia Painter said.
Still, reduced service could make for some notable changes on Squak Mountain.
“The intention for us is to have it open on weekends — Friday, Saturday, Sunday — and probably holidays with some limited services, meaning limited maintenance,” Lake Sammamish State Park Manager Rich Benson said. “We’re probably not going to do as much as we once did.”
(Rangers manage Lake Sammamish, Squak Mountain, Bridle Trails and Olallie state parks from a lakeside office in Issaquah.)
The state could also find a partner, such as a nonprofit group, to help maintain Squak Mountain, although no such agreement has been announced.
State legislators sent a $32 billion budget to Gov. Chris Gregoire as a special session raced to a close May 25. The budget allocates $146.5 million to the state parks agency from July until 2013. The spending plan includes almost $8.9 million to operate 119 state parks as the agency refashions the parks system to become self-supporting.
Earlier in the special session, lawmakers created $30 annual and $10 day-use parking passes for state parks and other state-managed recreation sites. The state needs to raise about $60 million in Discover Pass sales each year to compensate for budget cuts.
The state is expected to announce a sale date for the Discover Pass soon. The pass is required to park at state recreation facilities after July 1, although officials plan for a grace period to educate people about the rule change.
In the state spending plan, legislators also directed the state parks agency to notify local governments and nonprofit organizations about closures, in order to provide opportunities for other entities to acquire or maintain the park in order to keep the facility open.
“Our plan now is to try our best,” Painter said. “We’re looking at managing the way we staff parks a little differently, working with different groups here and there — if they want to help and can help.”
The proposal to mothball Squak Mountain surfaced last year.
State parks commissioners relied on 2009 fiscal year data to determine the revenue-to-expenses ratio for facilities and recommended Squak Mountain for shutdown. The park cost $61,844 to maintain during the 2009 fiscal year and generated $423 during the same period.
The state parks commission had last proposed closing recreation sites in early 2009. Legislators agreed to add a $5 opt-out fee on state vehicle license tab renewals, but the measure did not generate as much revenue as expected, prompting additional cuts.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.