WINTER SPORTS — Washington state parks commissioners will consider on Friday ending the 30-year reciprocity agreement to honor Oregon sno-park permits at winter recreation spots in this state including Mount St. Helens, Wind River and Mount Adams, according to the Vancouver Columbian.
Wayne McLaughlin of the Washington parks agency staff said its is believed Washington could generate more money to pay for its winter program without the reciprocity agreement.
Indeed, at the current cost of Sno-Park permits in each state, Oregon residents spend less than Washington residents to use Washington’s Sno-Park areas.
The sno-park programs in both states started more than three decades ago, explains Columbian reporter Al Thomas. Winter recreationists buy vehicle permits with the money used to plow roads and parking lots and groom trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobile riding.
Washington charges $20 for a daily permit and $40 for a seasonal permit. Oregon charges $4 for a daily permit, $9 for a three-consecutive-day permit and $25 for a seasonal permit.
Oregon requires a sno-park permit at commercial downhill ski areas plus backcountry recreation lots. That gives Oregon a much broader base of buyers than in Washington, which does not require the permits at downhill ski areas.
“Everybody is hunting for dollars,” McLaughlin said. “This looks like a revenue leak we could plug.”
While residents in the Walla Walla and Tri-Cities head into Oregon’s Blue Mountains for winter recreation, a larger number of Portland-metro residents likely come north into Washington, McLaughlin said.
At $4 versus $20 for a daily permit, or $25 versus $40 for a seasonal permit, Oregonians can use Washington locales at less cost than in-state residents.
But McLaughlin said he suspects Washington’s commission will not make the change effective this winter.
“I think it’s perceived as being harmful to tourism, and that Oregon residents will not come here and buy gas and meals and spend money,” he said. “Nobody wants to do anything that is detrimental to tourism.”
If the Washington commission opts to end reciprocity, this state’s administrative code requires it must give 30 days notice to Oregon.
“It wouldn’t go into force likely until after the first of the year,” McLaughlin said.
The Washington and Oregon winter recreation programs were similar when started, but they evolved down different paths, particularly with Oregon requiring the permit at commercial ski areas. T
he Oregon Department of Transportation web site says Oregon has reciprocity agreements with California and Idaho, but is “silent” regarding Washington, anticipating a change, said Dave Thompson, public information manager for ODOT.
“At this minute, we have reciprocity,” Thompson said. “We’ve been told internally we’ll know more on Friday, but I can’t speak for Washington.”
Rick Acosta of the Mount Hood National Forest said sno-park reciprocity is an issue between Washington and Oregon state governments.
Darvel Lloyd of Portland said he’d pay $40 for the Washington permit because he enjoys skiing in the upper Wind River area, plus out of the Marble Mountain lot on Mount St. Helens and SnowKing lot on Mount Adams.
McLaughlin said whatever the commission’s decision, snowmobile registration reciprocity between Washington and Oregon is not on the table.
That means snowmobiles registered in Washington still will be legal to ride in Oregon.