Washington Funds Parks with Discover Pass

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June 29, 2011 by   Comments Off on Washington Funds Parks with Discover Pass

Summer days spent lounging lakeside at Lake Sammamish State Park or hiking in Tiger Mountain State Forest start to cost most users a fee soon, according to a report in the Issaquah Press.

The cash-strapped state is preparing to debut the Discover Pass on July 1, just as the Fourth of July weekend causes attendance to swell at state parks and recreation lands. The permit is required to park vehicles at state recreation sites and other public lands.

The base price for the annual pass is $30, although consumers should expect to shell out another $5 in fees. The day-use pass — base price: $10 — carries $1.50 in additional fees.

State officials maintain the pass is necessary to avoid closing state parks and other sites to public access, but outdoors enthusiasts said the requirement serves a barrier to parkgoers, and could cause attendance to drop.

The pass is needed for parking access to 7 million acres of state recreation lands under the jurisdiction of the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and state Department of Fish and Wildlife. State recreation lands include state parks, boat launches, heritage sites, wildlife and natural areas, campgrounds, trails and trailheads.

Users must display the annual or day-use Discover Pass in vehicles’ front windshields or face a $99 fine. Officials plan to emphasize public education and compliance during the upcoming holiday weekend.

The state is offering the Discover Pass online and at recreational license dealers across the Evergreen State. Still, rangers at Lake Sammamish State Park fielded dozens of phone calls in recent months about the pass. Selling the permit is also causing logistics hassles for park rangers.

Lake Sammamish State Park Ranger Tor Bjorklund said rangers hope to sell the passes at a booth near the park entrance, but because the staff is stretched thin and the booth needs repairs, parkgoers might need to trek off the beaten path to the office to purchase a Discover Pass.

The pass is meant to generate funding to offset deep cuts to land-management agencies and state parks. Officials need to raise about $60 million per year to compensate for the cuts.

“We are optimistic that people will support state parks and recreation lands and buy the Discover Pass,” State Parks Director Don Hoch said in a statement. “Without the pass to support state parks, we would have been closing park gates all over the state.”

“The Discover Pass will help ensure that the beautiful recreation lands of Washington state remain open for all to enjoy,” state Commissioner of Public Land Peter Goldmark said in a statement. “For less than the cost to take the family out to the movies, we can keep popular places such as Mount Si, Capitol State Forest and Ahtanum State Forest open.”

Revenue from pass sales is to be divided among the state land-management agencies: 84% to state parks, 8%  to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and 8% to the Department of Natural Resources.

State lawmakers approved the Discover Pass in late April. Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the legislation into law last month.

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