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Eye On Olympia

In the face of a $10-$23 million budget cut, state trying to decide which parks to close…

Back in December, Gov. Chris Gregoire called on the state Parks and Recreation Commission to come up with 10 percent in budget savings over the next two years. Lawmakers have now asked to see what a 23 percent budget cut would look like. Neither is final, but the statehouse clearly wants to see what deep cuts to parks (and higher ed, etc.) would look like.

At the $10 million level, parks officials have drawn up plans to cut staff, postpone equipment purchases and to try to get rid of 13 state parks. Those parks, ideally, would be given to local cities or counties to take care of. Two other parks would be closed.

Here’s that list:

Parks Proposed for Transfer

1.Bogachiel State Park
2.Brooks Memorial State Park
3.Fay Bainbridge State Park
4.Fort Okanogan State Park
5.Fort Ward State Park
6.Joemma Beach State Park
7.Kopachuck State Park
8.Lake Sylvia State Park
9.Old Fort Townsend State Park
10.Osoyoos Lake Veterans Memorial State Park
11.Schafer State Park
12.Tolmie State Park
13.Wenberg State Park

Parks Proposed to be Mothballed: 

1.    Nolte State Park
2.    Squilchuck State Park.

At the $23 million cut level, things get even more dramatic. Instead of getting rid of yet more

parks, the agency’s suggesting mothballing them. Restrooms and gates would be locked. Services and routine maintenance would be halted. The public could still walk into the parks and use them during the day.

“We won’t cite people for being on the land,” said parks spokeswoman Virginia Painter.

To save the requested $23 million, the agency says, it would have to temporarily close 20-36 parks, in addition to the 15 already slated for transfer or closure. A final version of that list will likely be given to state lawmakers next week, once the commission figures out how to prioritize the parks.

All those closures would be temporary, Painter said.

“But how temporary?” she continued. “No one knows.”

There is no final list for that second round of closures, simply because the commission hasn’t yet decided what criteria to use. Close parks based on lowest visitation? Biggest cost? Least revenue from camping, boating, etc.? Or based on historic or other values? The commission today is trying to hash that out, with a list of proposed mothballed parks likely to be released next week.

More: Here’s a Spokane-focused story I wrote for today’s paper on how the parks would stack up under one obvious criterion: number of visitors.

And here’s a lengthy State Parks document discussing the problems and some options.

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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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