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Washington State Parks Closing???

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From the October 6th Tri City Herald:

Washington state parks board plans for cuts

By Annette Cary, Tri-City Herald

PASCO -- All options are under consideration as the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission starts planning for a worst-case scenario of cutting an additional 20 percent of its budget.

That could include closing state parks, although that was not the preference of staff at a commission workshop Wednesday in Pasco. The commission also is meeting today in Pasco.

"We need to keep parks open so people choose us," said Larry Fairleigh, assistant director of parks development.

The state's parks system is transitioning to dependence on fees paid by those who visit them rather than taxpayer money distributed by the Legislature. In July, the state began requiring a Discover Pass at an annual cost of $30 or a daily charge of $10 for each vehicle entering state parks.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has said that Discover passes should be the commission's top priority and that the program has to be successful, said state parks Director Don Hoch.

But if parks are closed, the state runs the risk of selling fewer Discover passes, said commission staff. The parks, which include 700 historic buildings, also would be in danger of vandalism.

The commission has begun planning for a cut of up to $30 million of about $148 million in the two-year budget for state parks.

The state Legislature budgeted about $17 million for the current biennium to help the commission as it transitions off the general fund, but the commission potentially could receive no general fund money after that. Its reserve fund also could be rolled back into the state coffers.

In addition, the commission fears that Discover Pass sales may be less than anticipated and that because of the Discover Pass, fewer people will check the $5 donation box when they renew their car tabs.

At Sacajawea State Park in Pasco, visits dropped 50 percent in the first month the Discover Pass was required.

If the state starts closing parks that don't pay for themselves, it would have to close 77 of the state's 116 parks to make up the entire $30 million, which is not an option under consideration, said Mike Sternback, state parks operations director.

"Closing parks is counterproductive," said Fairleigh, as he proposed other issues for the commission members to consider. "We must offer an experience the public will choose."

Some agencies, including county governments, are willing to take over certain state parks. However, if the commission members consider transferring some state parks to other government agencies, they first may want to consider the income-producing potential of the parks, Sternback said.

Now, about 70 percent of the state parks budget covers labor costs, Sternback said. That includes $30 million for park rangers, $12 million for park aides and $12 million for maintenance workers.

The state may want to further evaluate its seasonal staffing and make sure it is making efficient use of current job classes, matching job tasks to job pay levels, he said. The agency already has cut staff by about 15 percent.

The commission also has responded to the Washington State Office of Financial Management with proposals to cut its $17 million in general fund revenue by 10 percent as the state faces a forecasted $1.6 billion state budget gap. Proposals include delays in hiring and canceling an ocean beach law enforcement contract.

"No one strategy will accomplish what we need," Sternback said. But the state must maintain an adequate number of parks to preserve public support and must maintain park service at a level that keeps people coming to the parks, he said.

The parks commission meeting today starts at 9 a.m. at the Gjerde Center on the Columbia Basin College's Pasco campus. Public comments will be taken.

Topics on the agenda include setting fees. Proposals include a 3 percent increase for cabin rentals, increasing the annual boat launch fee from $70 to $80 and increasing annual moorage permit prices to $4 a foot.

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The drama continues, but at this point the outcome is all speculation.

This will play out over the next few months.

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The state's greed made it's own bed and now it must sleep in it. It's greed in implementing the per vehicle Discover pass is appearantly making things worse than they were before the D-pass. Really bright politicians raised prices during a recession and now they wonder why few are willing to pay. 50% less Parks users is a massive number difficult to ignore. But if our state politicians are anything like their hero Obama they will continue to implement the same old policies expecting a different outcome. I believe that by definition is insanity. 👍

PS

Be ready for a mandatory $5 fee to be attached to all tabs renewals in the state. That way the Aristocracy in Olympia can feel good about itself and claim victory over it's pawns rather than defeat.

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The drama continues, but at this point the outcome is all speculation.

This will play out over the next few months.

Good observation, Tod. As usual.

This sounds like a bit of posturing to get started. If the idea is to cut $30M from a $148M budget, that's 20%. To cover a 20% budget reduction you have to close 77 of 116 parks. That's 2 out of 3 parks.

SOP for government. The standard PR approach is that if taxes go down we let go firefighters and cops. This kind of "planning" always comes from the staff drones in the departments who tend to make sure their staff jobs are the last to disappear.

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It's much more important to ensure that the crack babies, welfare whores and hood rats have an EBT card with enough cash to buy dope, smokes, beer, McDonalds and chips than to spend money on some old park or building that only the rich Wall Street people can afford to use.

👍

The Do Not Ride has already closed a few recreation areas due to budget cuts.

Fair is fair, time for the State Parks to either close some parks or else start charging enough money at the gate to become self sufficent.

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I know the NE region of DNR was planning to HIRE a VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR with their piece of the DP pie. Instead of maintaining staff with their funding, they are increasing their staff and overspending in order to do so. I am sure this was done throughout the state run agencies based on anticipated income from the DP. And why do they think volunteers are going to pay to volunteer on their land??? I've been volunteering 50-100 hours on the LPO every year up to the implementation of the DP. Now it would cost $70 just to legally volunteer on their land.

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It's much more important to ensure that the crack babies, welfare whores and hood rats have an EBT card with enough cash to buy dope, smokes, beer, McDonalds and chips than to spend money on some old park or building that only the rich Wall Street people can afford to use.

👍

The Do Not Ride has already closed a few recreation areas due to budget cuts.

Fair is fair, time for the State Parks to either close some parks or else start charging enough money at the gate to become self sufficent.

Not disagreeing with you at all but if they lost 50% of their patronage coincidently with the implementation of the D-Pass, what do you think will happen if they start charging at the gate before you may enter?

They are about to raise our taxes. You can count on it.

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Now it would cost $70 just to legally volunteer on their land.

We are working on getting the volunteer hours/ free pass issue improved.

The DNR could fix it instantly if they wanted to 👍

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I would love to see the state park across the street from me get closed down..... those trails will get treated in the manner with which they were intended 👍

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..."But if parks are closed, the state runs the risk of selling fewer Discover passes"

DO YA' THINK?? 👍

I think they need to do what other businesses do and cut the price of the D pass to a rate that most will comply and not avoid altogether. 2 dollars a visit and 10 bucks a year. Then again, that would clog up the trials . hmmmmmm

Joe

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..."But if parks are closed, the state runs the risk of selling fewer Discover passes"

DO YA' THINK?? 👍

I think they need to do what other businesses do and cut the price of the D pass to a rate that most will comply and not avoid altogether. 2 dollars a visit and 10 bucks a year. Then again, that would clog up the trials . hmmmmmm

Joe

I have a novel idea Joe.

One D-Pass purchase that covers the person not the vehicle. They could issue it with two peices, one that hangs from the mirror of your transport vehicle and one that you carry in your wallet. No matter where you are or what vehicle your using, you are covered. Just one pass period. They could have a single person and family version of the pass with maybe $3 a peice for the extra wallet passes for family members.

I know, I know - it is too complicated and citizen friendly to do such a thing but I bet they would have sold 200% more passes if they had arranged it this way.

Edited by Old_Man_Time

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This entire thing, cutting the parks, education, disability services, etc. etc. etc. Is really (IMO) about forcing a state income tax. Gregoire is bound and determined to find more tax revenues. For whatever reason our state politicians seem to think California has the right idea even though California has every tax and fee you can imagine and yet they are in terrible financial shape.......hmmmmm........

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One D-Pass purchase that covers the person not the vehicle.

That was the original proposal, but at $40/person.

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