Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Washington State Parks Department Seeks Federal Funding to Keep Parks Open

According to an article on November 4th in The Columbian, Washington’s beloved state parks are in a financial bind. Revenue projections are falling short and the new Discover Pass user fee program isn’t proving to be a dependable source of income. As a result, the Washington State Parks Department is seeking federal funding in the amount of $27 million for the next two years, a figure that Parks officials say would keep the agency up and running.

Legislators have previously said state parks may get no general fund money in 2013-15. But, according to a department report released earlier this year, that can’t even be an option if state parks are to remain a viable program. Washington’s State Parks Department has had to deal with huge cutbacks—from $98 million in 2007-09 down to $21 million at present. And, since 2008, one third of the Parks’ permanent full- time jobs have been cut. Other employees have been downsized to seasonal positions, reshuffled to other places, or let go.

One thing the agency hasn't done is close any of Washington's 116 state parks. Keeping them open remains a top priority, particularly now that people are being asked to pay more to directly support them. As of right now, though, there is no crystal ball that shows what, if any, help state parks will get form Washington’s general fund, once lawmakers come back to Olympia. State revenue projections aren’t looking rosy, and there are many other state agencies petitioning for help before the 2013 legislative session reconvenes. 

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