Washington State Parks – Budget Struggles

Washington State Parks are facing some tough times. Due to a huge decrease in the amount of monies receive from the general tax fund, there have been a number of cutbacks.

The cutbacks to the ranger force have included reducing 66 of the 189 fulltime positions down to part time positions of either five or eight month duration. Unfortunately, the loss of the fulltime positions means that traditional maintenance periods are understaffed. Previously in the off season times park staff would perform standard maintenance and repairs. With the reduction in staff, some of the repairs must be postponed or cancelled.

In the years 2007-2009, the parks received approximately $94.3 million from the general fund. In 2010-2012 that number decreased to $17.2 million. This has made it a struggle for the state to keep its more than 100 parks viable. The state introduced the Discover Pass in hopes that it would help make up some of the lost revenue. The pass costs visitors $10 for day use or $30 annually. While the initial hope was that the pass would bring in revenue of $32 million, in its first year it brought in about half of that amount. It is thought that it takes about three years for a new fee structure to be accepted by consumers. This leaves some hope that over time, the revenue from the Discover Pass will increase to the expected levels. Sandy Mealing, public information officer for Washington State Parks and Recreation, pointed out the necessity for the public to embrace the fee structure stating “I think we owe it to the generations before us and the generations after us to be good stewards of these natural resources”.

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