Outdoors blog

State lands parking pass a tough sell in WA

PUBLIC LANDS -- Washington's budget crisis is leaving lawmakers with the grim prospect of having to close perhaps 100 of the state's parks plus access sites at some recreation areas managed by other state agencies.

One of the solution's is a $30 Discover Pass user fee for vehicles accessing these public lands, detailed in my Outdoors column today. 

The hitch is that even if lawmakers approve the bill for a new vehicle parking pass, Washington residents have indicated they won't buy it.  

The State Parks Department experimented with a vehicle parking fee for day users at some sites beginning in 2003. But the Legislature rescinded the fee in 2006, after stepped-up enforcement triggered public opposition.

This time around the state parks have few other options. The governor's budget proposal offers no general fund money to the parks system.

Sportsmen have become accustomed to paying their way through excise taxes and license fees.  Hikers, birdwatchers and other outdoor groups have not.

The Washington Trails Association has seen the bottom line and realized a new funding source is desperatly needed to nurse state parks through this budget crisis. The group lobbied in Olympia Wednesday and urge support for the Discover Pass bill.

However, in the WTA magazine, the letters from hikers were clearly against a new parking pass required for public lands access.

People don't think twice about paying a fee for every text message they send, but they balk at paying for public land access and management through fees or taxes.  Where do we go from there?  

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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