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Discover Pass now required for access to state lands

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by MARK ST.J. COUHIG

Sequim Gazette

If you plan to take advantage of the midsummer sunshine by hanging out at Sequim Bay State Park, know this: You now have to pay for the privilege.

 

The new “Discover Pass” system has been in place since July 1, but through the long July Fourth weekend it wasn’t enforced.

 

Now visitors who bring a vehicle to the park must purchase a $10 one-day pass or a $30 annual pass.

 

An annual Discover Pass provides a great range of benefits: It’s good at all state parks and for entry onto lands owned or managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Washington Department of Natural Resources.

 

In addition to Sequim Bay State Park, that means thousands of acres within Clallam County including, for example, the Bell Creek and Lower Dungeness Wildlife Areas, the Lyre River Campground, Foothills Trail and many more sites — even the DNR’s logging roads.

 

So far, complaints about the Discover Pass have been few and far between said Jeana Johnson, a park aide at Sequim Bay. In fact she’s been pleasantly surprised.

 

“I was ready to duck and cover,” she said with a laugh. “Most people don’t mind supporting our state parks.”

 

Park Manager Steve Gilstrom echoed Johnson’s comment, saying, “People understand the dire straits we’re in. This is the difference between us being here and not being here.”

Rules causing confusion

That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a hiccup or two, particularly regarding Discover Pass rules and regulations, which are causing quite a bit of confusion.

 

Gilstrom agreed the system “is pretty complicated.” He noted Washington’s legislators rushed through the authorizing bill at the end of their recent session. The state has since struggled to create a simple-to-use system, he said, but “It’s working out.”

 

Kingston resident John Henthorn purchased a Discover Pass prior to arriving at Sequim Bay State Park on Wednesday, July 13. Henthorn and his wife, Dawn, only later learned that because they were camping at the park overnight they weren’t required to have a Discover Pass, which only is needed for day visits.

Gilstrom pointed out that campers already are paying fees for the right to be there — $31 a night for full hook-ups or $22 for a simple campsite.

 

Henthorn said he is more than happy to support the parks by purchasing a Discover Pass but he does have one complaint: The pass is attached to a license plate number. That means it’s only valid for one vehicle. “It should be one per family rather than one car,” he said.

 

Henthorn said the requirement to purchase a Discover Pass clearly hasn’t affected business at the state parks. A recent search on the Internet showed Sequim Bay was the only state park that last week had an open camping spot — and Henthorn promptly scooped it up.

Who is exempt?

Johnson said she has spoken with several people who believed there are certain categories of Washington residents who are exempt from the requirement to purchase a Discover Pass. That is only partially the case, she said. The disabled, disabled veterans, senior citizens on a limited income and licensed foster parents can apply for a “reduced cost or waived fee pass” that will provide them with access to state parks in lieu of a Discover Pass. (For a list of the passes and the eligibility requirements, go to www.parks.wa.gov/passes or call 360-902-8844.)

 

Keep in mind that as opposed to a Discover Pass, a parks pass isn’t valid for entry onto WDFW and DNR holdings.

 

Similarly, you will not need a Discover Pass to launch your boat from a state parks boat launch if you have the appropriate permit, but you will need the Discover Pass for boat launches managed by DNR and WDFW.

 

For more on the pass, including “frequently asked questions,” see www.discoverpass.wa.gov.

 

Discover Passes can be purchased at Sequim Bay State Park for $30 or for $35 from any vendor of state fishing and hunting licenses, by phone at 866-320-9933 or online at www.discoverpass.wa.gov.

 

Reach Mark Couhig at mcouhig@sequimgazette.com.

 

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