State parks prepare for possible $30 million budget gap
November 28, 2011
NEW — 9 a.m. Nov. 28, 2011
Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission officials said the agency is prepared to change amid the prospect of a $30 million budget gap.
The state parks agency used to receive about 75 percent of operating funds from the state general fund, but in the last legislative session, lawmakers set aside $17 million in “bridge” funding to transition the agency off of general fund dollars. Legislators also implemented the Discover Pass, a parking fee for state parks and state-managed recreation lands.
“The Discover Pass is a vital funding source for state parks,” Commission Chairman Joe Taller said in a statement. “We are asking the public to support and protect state parks by purchasing the Discover Pass.”
The commission prepared a strategy to allow the agency to respond to a worst-case scenario if legislators cut the existing $17 million general fund dollars or if Discover Pass and other revenues fall short. The strategy includes dramatically cutting costs, changing service levels in the short term, and building capabilities for a better-resourced and sustainable future.
“The situation would be bleak if Discover Pass and other revenues do not increase,” State Parks Director Don Hoch said. “Our goal is to keep parks open, but we need the help and support of the public to do that.”
The potential consequences of a $30 million shortfall include reductions in agency staffing, longer law enforcement response times at parks, deferred maintenance and more.
The commission is also preparing to retool for the future by expanding fundraising and volunteer efforts, developing marketing and promotional capability, creating additional business capability, and changing operating and staffing models.
The agency operates Lake Sammamish and Squak Mountain state parks near Issaquah.