STATE PARKS -- Rock climbers and people fascinated by caves will be among the first to feel the impact of the budget crisis facing Washington's State Parks.
Two state parks in Eastern Washington – Crawford and Peshastin Pinnacles – will not open this season because of initial state budget cuts and more closures are possible, officials said Monday.
Five of the state’s 119 parks are on the list in the first round of closures resulting from the agency’s $10 million budget cut going into the Washington legislative session. However, funding agreements with local governments will keep two of the three West Side parks open -- Fort Ward near Bainbridge and Tolmie in Thurston County.
“Now we’re waiting on the Legislature to create the new budget,” said Tom Ernsberger, state parks East Side manager. “They’re wrestling with a lot of really big issues, and parks are just one of them.”
Crawford State Park near Metaline is a 49-acre day-use park featuring Gardner Cave, the third longest limestone cavern in Washington.
Peshastin Pinnacles State Park, north of U.S. Highway 2 near Cashmere, is a 34-acre day-use park featuring trails, sandstone slabs and spires up to 200 feet tall that are popular with rock climbers.
Spring is peak season for climbers heading to Peshastin, which normally opens March 15-Oct. 15.
Read on for more details.
While the park will not open to the general public, State Parks staff will try to make accommodations for visits by large organized groups, said Ernsberger.
“For instance, we get a military group from Fort Lewis that comes to train on the pinnacles each year,” he said.
Similarly, some large school group tours to Crawford State Park might still be worked out, Ernsberger said.
“We normally do about 6,000 tours a summer in the Gardner Cave,” said Steve Christensen, the Mount Spokane State park manager who also oversees Crawford.
“No fee is charged,” he said. “We ask for donations, but that generates only about $800-$1,000 a year. That’s not enough to keep it open.”
The cave – featuring stalactites, stalagmites, rimstone pools and flow stone – was donated to the state in the 1920s and became available as a state park attraction in the 1950s, he said.
The only West Side park certain to be closed this season is Federation Forest State Park east of Enumclaw.
Mount Spokane State Park will operate fairly normally, except seasonal staff reductions will preclude starting new projects, Christensen said.
“We still plan to complete some trail projects, but we’ll be relying heavily on volunteers for donations and to get the work done,” he said.