The board that oversees Washington state parks has rejected a timetable and demand by legislators that by 2013 the park system get by without money from the state General Fund, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported.
“The commission does not believe that state parks can meet its mission or operate at an acceptable level without General Fund (money),” said Joe Taller, chairman of the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.
The commission has told the state’s Office of Financial Management that it will seek $18 million in General Fund support for the 2013-15 biennium, in addition to the Discover Pass money it now receives.
The Legislature created the $30-a-year (or $10 a day) Discover Pass to keep parks from closing and give parks money to operate in budget-strapped times. It was, however, adopted with the promise that some General Fund support would be maintained.
The Discover Pass has, however, yielded less than half the $32 million anticipated in its first year of operation.
State Park Assets
The state park system has 117 parks and units, covering some famous spots in the Evergreen State.
Skiers enjoy the slopes of Mt. Spokane in winter, while boaters in summer head for renowned anchorages at Stuart and Sucia Islands in the San Juans. The views from atop Mt. Constitution in Moran State Park on Orcas Island are world famous.
Two of the state’s most famous cataracts — Wallace Falls in Snohomish County, and Palouse Falls in Eastern Washington — are in state parks. So is the ancient forest known as “Classic ‘U’” in South Whidbey State Park, saved in the 1970s by a citizen sit-in.
Generations of school children have learned about sea life at Rosario Beach in Deception Pass State Park, and on beaches of Larrabee State Park south of Bellingham. Ex-Western Washington University president Jerry Flora used Larrabee as an outdoor laboratory for his TV program “Tidepool Critters.”
Advocates say parks are an enormous public resource, which becomes of greater importance in economic hard times when families need places to recreate close to hold.
“We need people to understand that the budget request we’ll be making won’t put us at a level that the commission wants,” said Taller. “It’s not optimum or desirable. We’ve got to improve the service level we have currently. We can’t sustain services on what we have now.”
State parks get most of the money generated by the Discover Pass. It is shared with the Department of Natural Resources, overseer of such renowned places as Mt. Si, the state’s most heavily used trail, and the Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.