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

June 28, 2011

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.

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Discover Pass for state recreation lands goes on sale

June 20, 2011

NEW — 7 p.m. June 20, 2011

The parking pass required for state parks and other recreation lands is available for purchase, state agencies announced Monday.

The state is offering the Discover Pass online and at recreational license dealers across the Evergreen State. The pass is needed for parking access to 7 million acres of state recreation lands, including Lake Sammamish State Park and Tiger Mountain State Forest.

The base price for the annual pass is $30, and the base price for the day-use pass is $10. Users must also pay transaction and dealer fees.

Starting July 1, the pass is required for vehicle access to recreation lands and water-access sites under Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, state Department of Natural Resources and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife jurisdiction. State recreation lands include state parks, boat launches, heritage sites, wildlife and natural areas, campgrounds, trails and trailheads.

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Squak Mountain State Park to remain open

June 7, 2011

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.

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King County Council protects Issaquah Creek salmon habitat

May 31, 2011

Critical salmon habitat in the Issaquah Creek Basin is protected for the next half-century — and possibly longer — due to a King County Council decision.

The council members approved a 50-year lease agreement May 16 for 30 acres along Holder Creek and near Carey Creek — tributaries of Issaquah Creek. The wedge-shaped property is along Issaquah-Hobart Road Southeast, about a mile north of the state Route 18 interchange.

The legislation authorized County Executive Dow Constantine to lease the land from the state Department of Natural Resources at no cost.

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Governor approves $30 user fee for state parks, lands

May 17, 2011

The cost to keep Lake Sammamish State Park and other public recreation lands open amounts to $30 per year for many users, under a measure Gov. Chris Gregoire signed May 12.

Flanked by recreation enthusiasts, Gregoire signed legislation to create a $30 annual pass and a $10 day-use pass for state-managed forests, parks and other natural areas.

The measure, called the Discover Pass, goes into effect July 1 for vehicle access to recreation lands and water-access sites managed by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, state Department of Fish and Wildlife, and state Department of Natural Resources.

In addition to Lake Sammamish State Park, local recreation sites include Squak Mountain State Park and Tiger Mountain State Forest.

“It is essential that we keep our recreation areas open to the public,” Gregoire said in a statement. “I applaud the Legislature for coming together with a solution that allows us to help keep our state recreation lands open and accessible during the worst budget crisis in the state’s history.”

The pass goes on sale in mid-June. Users must display the annual or day-use Discover Pass in vehicles’ front windshields or face a $99 fine.

Lawmakers created the Discover Pass to close gaps in funding for state parks and recreation lands after Gregoire called for reduced support from taxpayer dollars amid a $5.1 billion budget shortfall.

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Governor approves $30 user fee for state parks, lands

May 12, 2011

NEW — 2 p.m. May 12, 2011

Flanked by recreation enthusiasts, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed legislation Thursday to create a $30 vehicle pass for Lake Sammamish State Park and other state recreation lands.

The measure, called the Discover Pass, goes into effect July 1 for vehicle access to recreation lands and water-access sites managed by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, state Department of Fish and Wildlife, and state Department of Natural Resources. The pass goes on sale in mid-June.

“It is essential that we keep our recreation areas open to the public,” Gregoire said in a statement. “I applaud the Legislature for coming together with a solution that allows us to help keep our state recreation lands open and accessible during the worst budget crisis in the state’s history.”

Users can pay $30 per year per vehicle or purchase a $10 day-use pass. State recreation lands include state parks, boat launches, campgrounds, heritage sites, wildlife and natural areas, trails and trailheads. In addition to the Lake Sammamish park, local sites include Squak Mountain State Park and Tiger Mountain State Forest.

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Legislators approve $30 fee for state recreation lands, open spaces

April 26, 2011

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.

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Legislators approve $30 fee for state recreation lands

April 21, 2011

NEW — 6:45 p.m. April 21, 2011

Outdoors enthusiasts could start paying $30 to park at state trailheads and use state parks starting in July.

In a party-line vote Thursday, 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 Wednesday.

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.

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.

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Legislators consider $30 fee for public lands, state parks

April 5, 2011

Proposed Discover Pass could stave off closures

Hikers, mountain bikers and other outdoors enthusiasts using Issaquah as a starting point for treks could face a $30 fee to use public lands and state parks come July.

Lawmakers proposed the statewide fee in order to inject funds into the cash-strapped agencies managing public forests, open spaces and recreation facilities. The legislation aims to create a yearlong pass, called the 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.

By Dona Mokin

Though the Discover Pass proposal attracted broad support from outdoor recreation groups, Issaquah legislators remain concerned about the state imposing fees amid a tough economy.

If the Legislature decides against a 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.

David Kappler, Issaquah Alps Trails Club president and a former Issaquah councilman, said the Discover Pass could offer a short-term solution.

“I think some of the fees that they’re talking about are reasonable, at least for a while, until things improve,” he said. “I really don’t think that we want to get into that situation long term.”

Supporters said the per-vehicle pass could be easier to enforce, because officers can check parking areas for vehicle windshields displaying a Discover Pass, rather than tracking down users on trails.

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AmeriCorps teams restore Squak trails

February 15, 2011

Sam Decker (left), 20, of Seattle, and Kyle Johnson, 21, of Sibley, Ill. (population 300), do two jobs at once as they dig a drainage channel and fill in a trail path during their Americorps project on Squak Mountain. By Greg Farrar

The scrapes from shovels and the metallic ring from pickaxes splitting rock echoed across the morning stillness on Squak Mountain as AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps members remade a stretch of trail along a forested slope.

The team from the national service program set up in Squak Mountain State Park near Issaquah last week to upgrade trails and carve drainage ditches in the popular hiking destination.

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