State agencies and the Washington Legislature are beginning to hear the publics’ message: The Departments of Parks, Fish and Wildlife, and Natural Resources have agreed on a “one-pass-for-all” approach to providing access to state lands and facilities during difficult budget times.
Programs in education, health care, social services and criminal justice are (rightly) at the top of the budget priority list to retain in the general fund budget. So, the proposed $30 Discover Pass provides a reasonable means to pay for retaining access to state outdoor recreation venues.
In fact, the Discover Pass seems like a pretty good bargain. Last year, we needed to purchase a $30 pass to access just Fish and Wildlife lands. This proposal sounds like a relatively fair deal.
More from the Seattle PI:
Legislation to set up a $30-per-vehicle annual “Discovery Pass” for those using state parks and wildlife lands has been introduced at the request of the cash-strapped land management agencies.
“As lawmakers discuss the most drastic budget cuts in state history, we need to align our revenues with our expectations about our quality of life,” said State Sen. Kevin Ranker, prime sponsor of the bill.
Sacajawea state park in Pasco
“We need to talk about not just how much our outdoor recreation services cost, but also how much it costs to lose them,” Ranker added. “Without this legislation, we will witness widespread closure of state parks and other public facilities.”
Senate Bill 5622 would create an annual, singular “Discovery Pass” whose holders could visit Washington State Parks and lands managed by the Dept. of Natural Resources and the Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. It would cost $30 per year. Day use passes would be sold for $10.
The legislation specifies how each agency would spend dollars generated by the Discovery Pass. State Parks would receive 85 percent of the revenue, DNR and Wish & Wildlife would get 7.5 percent each.
Under this formula, State Parks would receive $61 million, DNR and Fish & Wildlife $7.5 million apiece. Income over $71 million would be distributed evenly between the agencies.
A House version of the Discovery Pass has been introduced by State Rep. Kevin Van De Wege.
“State general revenues are no longer a stable source of funding for outdoor recreation on state lands,” said Phil Anderson, director of the Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife.
State Parks Director Don Hock added that with parks losing General Fund tax support, “we need a new way to fund recreation and a user-pay model seems to be the fairest — those who use parks pay for them.”