Discover Pass is required for state parks, recreation lands July 1

June 28, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Summer days spent lounging lakeside at Lake Sammamish State Park or hiking in Tiger Mountain State Forest start to cost most users a fee soon.

The cash-strapped state is preparing to debut the Discover Pass on July 1, just as the Fourth of July weekend causes attendance to swell at state parks and recreation lands. The permit is required to park vehicles at state recreation sites and other public lands.

The base price for the annual pass is $30, although consumers should expect to shell out another $5 in fees. The day-use pass — base price: $10 — carries $1.50 in additional fees.

State officials maintain the pass is necessary to avoid closing state parks and other sites to public access, but outdoors enthusiasts said the requirement serves a barrier to parkgoers, and could cause attendance to drop.

The pass is needed for parking access to 7 million acres of state recreation lands under the jurisdiction of the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, state Department of Natural Resources, and state Department of Fish and Wildlife. State recreation lands include state parks, boat launches, heritage sites, wildlife and natural areas, campgrounds, trails and trailheads.

Users must display the annual or day-use Discover Pass in vehicles’ front windshields or face a $99 fine. Officials plan to emphasize public education and compliance during the upcoming holiday weekend.

The state is offering the Discover Pass online and at recreational license dealers across the Evergreen State. Still, rangers at Lake Sammamish State Park fielded dozens of phone calls in recent months about the pass. Selling the permit is also causing logistics hassles for park rangers.

Lake Sammamish State Park Ranger Tor Bjorklund said rangers hope to sell the passes at a booth near the park entrance, but because the staff is stretched thin and the booth needs repairs, parkgoers might need to trek off the beaten path to the office to purchase a Discover Pass.

The pass is meant to generate funding to offset deep cuts to land-management agencies and state parks. Officials need to raise about $60 million per year to compensate for the cuts.

“We are optimistic that people will support state parks and recreation lands and buy the Discover Pass,” State Parks Director Don Hoch said in a statement. “Without the pass to support state parks, we would have been closing park gates all over the state.”

Officials eyed Squak Mountain State Park near Issaquah for possible closure amid the budget crunch, but instead opted to reduce hours and maintenance as a cost-cutting measure.

“The Discover Pass will help ensure that the beautiful recreation lands of Washington state remain open for all to enjoy,” state Commissioner of Public Land Peter Goldmark said in a statement. “For less than the cost to take the family out to the movies, we can keep popular places such as Mount Si, Capitol State Forest and Ahtanum State Forest open.”

Revenue from pass sales is to be divided among the state land-management agencies: 84 percent to state parks, 8 percent to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and 8 percent to the Department of Natural Resources.

State lawmakers approved the Discover Pass in late April. Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the legislation into law last month.

How to buy a Discover Pass

The annual Discover Pass is $35 and a day-use pass is $11.50, including a 10 percent transaction fee and dealer fees — $2 for the annual pass and 50 cents for the day-use permit. (The base price is $30 for the annual permit and $10 for the day-use permit.)

Statewide, the Discover Pass is for sale at almost 600 sporting goods and other retail stores that sell recreational fishing and hunting licenses. In Issaquah, Discover Pass retailers include:

  • Fred Meyer — 6100 E. Lake Sammamish Parkway S.E.
  • The Sports Authority — 1185 N.W. Gilman Blvd.
  • Or, purchase passes at Lake Sammamish State Park, 2000 N.W. Sammamish Road.
  • Call 1-866-320-9933 toll free or go to to order annual or day-use passes.

Certain holders of fishing and hunting licenses, registered campers in state parks, disabled veterans and others do not require a Discover Pass to park on state recreation lands. Find a complete list of exemptions at the Discover Pass website.

People can also earn a free annual Discover Pass by contributing 24 hours of agency-approved volunteer work in state recreation areas. Learn more about volunteer opportunities at the Discover Pass website.

Starting this fall, people can purchase passes from state Department of Licensing vehicle license agents.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or Comment at

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3 Responses to “Discover Pass is required for state parks, recreation lands July 1”

  1. dan leingang on June 30th, 2011 4:22 pm

    this is bull isnt gas prices enuff,it seem the state is takin more and more complaining they dont have money for employees,yet the to that havent got laid off are driving brand new vehicles ,my grandpa was a sherif for yakima ,and he didnt need a new car every month!

  2. jon evans on July 4th, 2011 9:39 am

    Unfortunately people are their own worst enemy, the cleanup and courteous use of our lands should be an entitlement of U.S/ Wash state citizens w/out payment. All others should be charged.

  3. Dave Johnson on August 10th, 2011 7:24 pm

    This is such crap, parks will close my a–, there are enough people that would volunteer time including myself, to where we wouldn’t need any help from Olympia to take care of park land. I’m sure up keep would be better in our hands anyway.

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