Washington legislators continue to craft proposals to keep state lands open and accessible for recreation despite the lack of general funds. At the heart of bills in the Senate (SB 5622) and the House (HB 1796) is a three-agency Discover Pass for vehicle access to State Parks, Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) lands. The annual pass would cost $30 per vehicle or $10 for a day-pass. The Senate Bill 5622 recently moved out of the Natural Resources & Marine Waters committee with the following improvements:
- Volunteers on state lands will receive a complimentary pass after 24 hours of service.
- State Parks may establish up to 12 days a year when entry to parks is free.
- Registered campers will not require a day pass or annual pass.
- People purchasing hunting or fishing licenses can purchase a $7 vehicle access fee for activities exclusive to DFW lands.
Under the governor’s current budget proposal, general funds appropriated to State Parks will be cut by 2/3 in the next two-year biennium. The outlook for the 2013-15 biennium is a State Parks department entirely cut-off from general funds, and the prospects for access and recreation programs at DNR and DFW is equally dire. The need for user-generated funding has never been greater for agencies that manage state lands.
The Discover Pass strives to raise $71 million in the first two years. With the lion’s share of visitors, State Parks would receive 85% of funds generated by the Discover Pass, with the remaining 15% divided between DNR and DFW. While there are those who are skeptical that Washington can maintain state lands on user-generated funds alone, the pass is an important step in the right direction and offers an alternative to massive closures on state lands.
If you value the opportunities for recreation on our state lands, please take a minute to tell your legislators that you support the Discover Pass!