News

State parks: They’ll cost ya

by MARK ST.J. COUHIG
Sequim Gazette

Gov. Christine Gregoire has signed into law a measure imposing fees on those who want to enjoy Washington’s parks, including Sequim Bay State Park.

 

Virginia Painter, a spokesman for the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, said the fee requirement technically becomes effective July 1 but won’t be enforced until the big Fourth of July weekend is over. In the meantime, park officials will be “educating the public” on the new law and working out the details of its implementation.

 

State Rep. Kevin Van De Wege sponsored the House version of the legislation, which Gregoire signed on Thursday, May 12.

 

Van De Wege said with the budgetary woes faced by the Legislature, instituting a fee was the only way to keep the parks open.

 

The Legislature has cut some $60 million from the parks system budget over the next two years. That would be impossible to make up simply by raising campground fees again, Van De Wege said.

 

Under the new law, visitors can purchase a $30 annual “Discover Pass” that provides access to all state parks, as well as recreational lands managed by the state Department of Natural Resources and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

 

The fee will pay for a hang-tag pass for the rearview mirror of the vehicle used to enter the park.

 

Visitors have the option of paying a one-day $10 fee when parking a vehicle at state parks.

 

The new law also establishes 12 days each year when the parks will be free.

 

“We’re concerned about maintaining park access for those with low or limited incomes,” Van De Wege said. “The free days will help ensure that everyone who wants to visit a state park will be able to do so.”

Buying a pass

Painter said the new passes “probably won’t be available for purchase until mid-June.” The Discover Pass then will be available through the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s “WILD System” and the

nearly 600 vendors statewide who sell fish and game licenses.

 

“Of course, we’re also working on having it available at most of the parks,” Painter said.

 

Beginning this fall, the Department of Licensing will offer it to those renewing their driver’s licenses.

 

Painter said they also likely will have self-registration opportunities at certain parks.

 

She said, “We’re moving fast but there are a lot of details to work out.”

 

Steve Gilstrom, Sequim Bay State Park manager, echoed those comments. “I know what’s coming,” he said. “But there are a lot of little things that have to be decided.”

 

The Parks Department already has a jump start on the statewide effort.

 

“We knew the governor was planning on signing (the bill), so we put together a website,” Painter said.

Though it is still a work in progress, the website provides many details on the new law. See www.discoverpass.wa.gov.

 

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