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Eye On Olympia

Posts tagged: parks

House approves voluntary $5-a-car fee to stave off state park closures…

In a move designed to stave off the closure of dozens of state parks, the state House of Representatives  voted Monday night to ask motorists to pay an extra $5 a year per car.

Over Republican objections, House Bill 2339 passed, 56 to 42. The bill now goes to the Senate.

If half the state’s residents pay the fee — which would be voluntary — it would raise about $28 million for parks over the next two years.

“We are now in a budget crisis, and we don’t have the money to pay for our parks,” said Rep. Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam.

And if ever there was a time to keep parks open, she said, it’s now, when cash-strapped families need a cheap place to relax.

Lawmakers lifted the idea from Montana, where since 2004, motorists have been asked to pay a voluntary $4 fee to pay for state parks. Most do.

Washington tried a mandatory $5-a-day parking fee during a previous budget crunch in 2002. Attendance at state parks dropped by millions, and lawmakers repealed the unpopular fee in 2006.

House Republicans tried to tack on several amendments. One would have instead asked for a $1 donation from everyone visiting a park. Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, tried to add language to re-open parks closed since 2002, including Chief Timothy State Park, Lyons Ferry State Park, and Central Ferry State Park.

A third amendment would have taken $25 million set aside to buy park land and instead used that money to keep existing parks open.

“It’s important to famlies to fund this now, not to leave it up to speculation about who will pay, said Rep. Matt Shea, R-Mead. He lives two miles from Mount Spokane State Park.

Some lawmakers have also raised concerns about people paying the extra $5, not realizing that it’s optional. Several mentioned a 1991 court case that slapped a cable TV company for a similar opt-in fee. Rep. Doug Ericksen, R-Bellingham, argued that the state is acting “as telemarketers, trying to fool the senior citizens of Washington State into giving $5 they did not know they had to give.”

Both sides agree that it would be a bad idea to shut down parks. Facing millions of dollars in cuts, the state Parks and Recreation Commission earlier this year prepared a list of 47 parks slated for closure or transfer to local governments.

“Nobody has emailed in and said, `yeah, that’s right, shut em down.’ Nobody.” said Rep. Glenn Anderson, R-Fall City.

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

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

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