Washington state parks, national parks offer free entry for National Get Outdoors Day

June 7, 2012

NEW — 8 a.m. June 7, 2012

Forget the Discover Pass.

Washington state parks, alongside national parks, offer free entry Saturday for National Get Outdoors Day, a chance to experience outdoor recreation areas at no cost.

So, visitors headed to Lake Sammamish and Squak Mountain state parks in the Issaquah area do not need a Discover Pass to enter. Similarly, the entrance fee to Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks — and all other national parks in Washington and from coast to coast — is waived.

Washington boasts more than 100 developed state parks, from majestic Deception Pass State Park to the old-growth forest of Lewis & Clark State Park.

The state also hosts 13 national park sites under National Park Service administration.

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Offer input at public meeting about state parks’ future

May 29, 2012

The agency responsible for Washington state parks is posing questions to citizens.

Should the state parks system operate more like a hospitality industry, a public conservation asset based mostly on grant and tax funding or a system of parks operating as community nonprofit entities? What do people enjoy about their park system? What improvements need to be made?

Citizens can offer answers to the questions as the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission starts a broad public outreach effort.

Officials plan to use the input to create a strategy to guide the parks system.

Participants at the public meetings can listen as parks staff members present a “state of state parks” report and ask for ideas and comments about visions for the future.

The meeting closest to Issaquah is scheduled from 7-8:30 p.m. June 6 at the King County Department of Development and Environmental Services office, 900 Oakdale Ave. S.W., Renton.

Find public comments, questions and suggestions received about the future of state parks at www.parks.wa.gov/Beyond2013 as the process proceeds.

Individuals, groups and organizations interested in joining the email list for updates regarding the planning process should email Strategic.Planning@parks.wa.gov.

Commission seeks citizen input on state parks’ future

May 15, 2012

The agency responsible for Washington state parks is posing questions to citizens.

Should the state parks system operate more like a hospitality industry, a public conservation asset based mostly on grant and tax funding or a system of parks operating as community nonprofit entities? What do people enjoy about their park system? What improvements need to be made?

Citizens can offer answers to the questions as the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission starts a broad public outreach effort. The commission is seeking ideas through email, and in meetings with legislators, stakeholders and in public meetings.

Officials plan to use the input to create a transformation strategy to guide the park system through the next five years and beyond.

Participants at the public meetings can listen as parks staff members present a “state of state parks” report and ask for ideas and comments about three visions for the future. Participants at each meeting can discuss the themes and share ideas.

The meeting closest to Issaquah is scheduled from 7-8:30 p.m. June 6 at the King County Department of Development and Environmental Services office, 900 Oakdale Ave. S.W., Renton.

Find public comments, questions and suggestions received about the future of state parks at www.parks.wa.gov/Beyond2013 as the process proceeds.

Individuals, groups and organizations interested in joining the email list for updates regarding the planning process should email Strategic.Planning@parks.wa.gov.

Governor vetoes state park facility, OKs hatchery dam

April 25, 2012

NEW — 9:45 p.m. April 25, 2012

Gov. Chris Gregoire eliminated $3.1 million for a proposed concession and event facility at Lake Sammamish State Park, but approved $4 million to replace a problem-plagued Issaquah Salmon Hatchery dam Tuesday.

Cheryl Pflug

The governor struck the state park facility from the supplemental budget before authorizing more than $1 billion in public works spending.

State Sen. Cheryl Pflug, a Maple Valley Republican and the representative for Issaquah, lambasted the decision to eliminate the state park project. Pflug joined other senators to pressure the governor to preserve funding for the facility.

“I challenged it myself, of course, but I also enlisted a team of Senate leaders — the Senate operating-budget and capital-budget leaders and the chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee,” Pflug said. “They quickly called the governor’s office and expressed their desire that the funding be preserved.”

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Users can transfer state recreation pass between vehicles

April 10, 2012

Users can transfer the Discover Pass for state parks and recreation lands between vehicles, under legislation Gov. Chris Gregoire signed March 30 — not long before Memorial Day launches the summer recreation season.

The change to the 1-year-old Discover Pass took effect immediately. The legislation allows users to transfer the annual pass between two vehicles at no additional cost.

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Users can transfer state recreation pass between vehicles

March 30, 2012

NEW — 4:30 p.m. March 30, 2012

Users can transfer the Discover Pass for state parks and recreation lands between vehicles, under legislation Gov. Chris Gregoire signed Friday.

Gov. Chris Gregoire

The change to the 1-year-old Discover Pass took effect immediately. The legislation allows users to transfer the annual pass between two vehicles at no additional cost.

State lawmakers acted after Discover Pass users complained about the inability to transfer the pass between vehicles.

“Customer survey results indicated that pass transferability between two vehicles could boost support for the Discover Pass,” State Parks Director Don Hoch said. “We are optimistic that the change will lead to greater public support and participation. We now depend on the Discover Pass to keep state parks and other state recreation lands open for public use and enjoyment.”

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Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust earns honor for state park projects

March 27, 2012

The long-term effort to restore natural areas in Lake Sammamish State Park earned the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust recognition from the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.

The nonprofit organization formed to oversee the Mountains to Sound Greenway earned the Significant Volunteer Achievement honor in the Volunteer Recognition Awards announced March 26.

Through a longtime Adopt-a-Park agreement, the greenway trust developed a nursery to plant, water, weed and pot native plants for use along the greenbelt from Seattle to Ellensburg.

Greenway members potted trees and shrubs — 23,000 plants in all. The group involved local students and corporate groups in restoration and maintenance along Issaquah Creek and planted trees at the state park.

The greenway trust also improved the 12-mile Squak Mountain trail system. Members installed more than 65 trail signs, raised 800 feet of turnpike trail above wet areas, performed stabilization work on equestrian trails and installed 150 drain dips to keep water off trails.

Statewide, volunteers at state parks last year performed 271,260 hours of work — equal to 130 full-time employees.

Press Editorial

February 14, 2012

Heritage designation fits for greenway

It seems silly that different public land-use agencies cannot work together, but the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust is trying to help resolve that problem.

Today, there are six major agencies that manage public lands with the 1.5 million acres known as the greenway. These include the U.S. Forest Service, City of Seattle Watershed, state Department of Natural Resources, Washington State Parks, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, and King County.

The agencies should be able to intermingle land management. The benefit focuses on enforcement and environmental decisions. For example, one agency employee may not have the authority to stop hunters or timber cutting on public land. It also opens the doors to pilot projects that might be used elsewhere in the country.

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State parks commission announces 2012 free days for visitors

January 10, 2012

The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday three-day weekend Jan. 14-16 will be the first of 10 free days in 2012 when the Discover Pass will not be required of visitors venturing out to enjoy their state parks.

Most of the free days are in alignment with 2012 free days offered by the National Park Service, according to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.

The “free days” are in keeping with legislation that created the Discover Pass, a $30 annual or $10 one-day permit required on state-managed recreation lands managed by Washington State Parks, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and the state Department of Natural Resources.

The Discover Pass legislation provided that Washington State Parks could designate up to 12 free days when the pass would not be required to visit state parks. The free days only apply at state parks. A Discover Pass will still be required to access Department of Fish and Wildlife and Department of Natural Resources lands.

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State parks gird for possible $30 million budget gap

December 6, 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 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 deep spending cuts, changes to service levels in the short term and re-engineering the agency for a leaner future.

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