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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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.”

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State nets almost $3 million from Discover Pass sales

October 25, 2011

Sales prompt backups, confusion at state park

The state-mandated Discover Pass generated $2.9 million for state parks and other public recreation lands since the state and retailers started offering the pass in June — crucial dollars for the cash-strapped agencies responsible for managing public lands.

Officials started requiring a $30 annual pass or a $10 day-use pass to park vehicles at recreation lands statewide July 1. The pass is mandatory for state parks, as well as lands managed by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and the state Department of Natural Resources.

State public lands agencies need to generate about $60 million per year in sales to compensate for deep budget cuts. The agencies split the revenue — 84 percent for state parks and 8 percent apiece for the others.

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Discover Pass is available to vehicle owners renewing registration

September 8, 2011

NEW — 10 a.m. Sept. 8, 2011

The annual Discover Pass for state parks and recreation lands is now available through the state Department of Licensing.

The agency started mailing notices in early September to owners of vehicle license tabs set to expire on or after Oct. 1.

Motorists can also purchase the Discover Pass at vehicle licensing offices or online as part of the registration renewal process. Purchasing the pass through the Department of Licensing does not have dealer or transaction fees attached.

People buying the pass through the Department of Licensing should receive the Discover Pass in the mail from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife within 10 days of renewal and purchase.

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State urges boaters to wear life jackets during holiday weekend

September 3, 2011

NEW — 6 a.m. Sept. 3, 2011

Sunshine and temperatures in the 80s for Issaquah mean Labor Day weekend offers a chance for boaters to set sail before summer concludes.

Officials expect a busy holiday weekend on Washington waterways, so the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission Boating Program reminds all boaters, especially personal water craft users, to wear a life jacket.

So far in 2011, 13 boating fatalities occurred in Washington. Only one boater involved in the accidents had been wearing a life jacket.

Under state law, boaters using personal watercraft, such as Jet Skis, must wear a life jacket.

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Discover Pass sales generate almost $3 million for parks, lands

August 25, 2011

NEW — 6 a.m. Aug. 25, 2011

The state generated $2.9 million for state parks and other public recreation lands during the initial six weeks of Discover Pass sales, state agency chiefs announced Wednesday.

Officials started requiring the $30 annual pass or $10 day-use pass to park vehicles at recreation lands statewide July 1. The state started selling the passes in June.

Don Hoch, Washington State Parks director, said the revenue is crucial to state parks, because the agency must rely on user fees and donations to cover costs. In recent years, the Legislature slashed funding for agencies managing outdoor recreation lands and facilities.

“Public support has been essential as we begin this new program aimed at preserving public access to recreation lands,” he said in a statement. “It’s heartening that Washington citizens are willing to help keep their recreation lands open and operating. And we are optimistic that sales will continue to grow to help fund our state recreation lands.”

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State park pulls some strings to host Beijing puppet theater

August 23, 2011

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission Folk Arts in the Parks Program presents a free performance of the Beijing rod puppet theater in Lake Sammamish State Park.

Puppeteers Zhengli Xu (left) and Yuqin Wang will perform at 6 p.m. Aug. 26 with the Beijing rod puppet theater in Lake Sammamish State Park. Contributed

No state Discover Pass for parking is needed for those attending this event.

The performance is at 6 p.m. Aug. 26 in the kitchen shelter at the park.

The state describes performers Dragon Art Studio, based in Portland, as an internationally acclaimed puppet theater and the only professional rod puppet theater in North America. Primary puppeteers Yuqin Wang and Zhengli Xu were trained in China at the Beijing Puppet Theater and the Beijing Opera School. Their daughter, Brenda Xu, is the third member of the troop.

Wang and Xu came to the U.S. in 1996 and performed at the Atlanta Olympics that summer. In 2004, they were named National Heritage Fellows by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The performance is part of a broader series of events celebrating the diverse culture represented in Washington. The program is a partnership between the Washington Parks and Recreation Commission, the Washington State Arts Commission and Northwest Heritage Resources. Funding is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Washington State Arts Commission and the Washington State Parks Foundation.

The Beijing puppet show is designed to be accessible to those with disabilities. If special accommodations are required in order to attend, call 649-4276. Those who are hearing or speech impaired may call the Washington Telecommunications Relay Service 800-833-6388 toll free. Requests must be made in advance.

Learn more about the Dragon Arts Studio at www.dragonartstudio.com.

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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