Trails, camps may close to save the state money

OLYMPIA – The state Department of Natural Resources would close more than 20 trails, campgrounds and interpretive centers in March under Gov. Chris Gregoire’s cash-strapped supplemental budget.

Among the proposed closures are the Mount Si and Little Si trailheads near North Bend, two of the state’s most popular routes with an estimated combined use each year by more than 500,000 people. Also facing closure is the Mima Mounds interpretive center near Littlerock.

Outdoor recreation groups will lobby the Legislature, which starts its session today, to find the $276,000 in general fund money needed to keep the trails and recreation areas open.

“Losing public access to these areas for even a season would be a disaster,” said Jonathan Guzzo, advocacy director for the Washington Trails Association. “These are important family outdoor getaways close to urban areas.”

“Once the public sees this list of closures, they’ll demand action from their legislators,” said state Sen. Ken Jacobsen, D-Seattle, the chairman of the Senate Natural Resources, Oceans and Recreation Committee.

Mark Mauren, a DNR assistant division manager assigned to recreation, said the agency’s recreation program will run out of general-fund money in late March. The program already had its budget cut 50 percent last year.

The general-fund money pays for such things as trail maintenance; replacing signs, picnic tables and corrals; pumping outhouses; and training volunteers.

In the short term, DNR would need an infusion of general-fund money to keep the trails and camps open, Mauren said. Eventually, DNR wants to use user fees to help finance its recreation programs.

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Rich Landers

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