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Fees approved for state’s parks, recreation areas

OLYMPIA – Planning on driving to a state park or recreation area for some fun in the great outdoors after July 1? It’ll cost you.

The same for visiting a state heritage site or wildlife area, using a state boat launch or trail.

Under a law signed Thursday by Gov. Chris Gregoire, lands controlled by the State Parks and Recreation Commission, Department of Natural Resources or Department of Fish and Wildlife will charge a $10-per-day vehicle fee for visitors who drive in. Regular users can buy an annual “Discover Pass” for all areas for $30.

The Legislature approved the new fees to help offset some $72 million in cuts those three state agencies are expected to absorb in the 2011-2013 general operating budget.

Money collected from the fees will go only to those agencies, and will be divided based on the relative size of cuts each is taking. State parks will get 84 percent of the amount collected, while Natural Resources and Fish and Wildlife will each get 8 percent.

“It preserves the parks and all these other recreation areas that otherwise in these tough times we might lose,” Gregoire said as dozens of people, including Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark, applauded. “This is the biggest turnout for a fee bill I’ve ever had.”

Starting July 1, the agencies will enforce the fees on state recreation lands. It will apply to people who drive onto state lands to gather mushrooms, berries or firewood, bird-watch, geocache, or just about any outdoor activity. The fee applies to out-of-state visitors as well as Washington residents.

There are some exceptions. It won’t be needed when camping at a state park if you have a receipt for your campsite on your dashboard. A free vehicle access pass will be issued for Fish and Wildlife lands with certain hunting and fishing licenses, but a daily or Discover Pass will still be needed for vehicle access for hunters and fishers parking on state park or DNR lands.

Off-road vehicles such as dirt bikes and quads with an ORV tab won’t need an access pass, and neither will trailers. But the vehicle hauling the trailer will.

It will be possible to park on state managed lands for up to a half an hour without a pass. After that, however, a vehicle can be cited and the penalty for not having a pass is $99.

By mid-June, access passes will be for sale at most sporting goods outlets and other stores that sell hunting and fishing licenses. They’ll be available for purchase when renewing a vehicle license, and through the Fish and Wildlife’s website at or the agency’s toll free number (866) 320-9933.