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‘Discover Pass’ to access parks would cost $30

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Jan. 31, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
January 31, 2011 4:28 pm

It would cost $30 a year to visit state parks and forests under a proposal made public today.

For those who don’t buy the $30 annual “Discover Pass,” a single day’s visit would cost $10.

Those are the much-awaited details of Senate Bill 5622, introduced by Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-San Juan Island, at the request of the agencies that manage the state parks system and other public lands.

The price tag has grown since the state parks commission first put pencil to paper at the request of Gov. Chris Gregoire, who wants to move the parks system off the general fund. To move to a “user-pays” funding scheme for the parks, the commission said in December it would need to sell a $10 annual parking pass or charge $5 daily parking fees.

But state officials say they would need higher fees to raise $71 million through the passes.

The parks are free now. A $5 donation is optional for drivers renewing their car tabs.

Under the bill, recreation enthusiasts could pick up the annual parking passes at car-tab renewal time or at one of the offices where the state sells hunting and fishing licenses.

Volunteers who put in more than 40 hours of work in the parks would get their Discover Passes for free.

Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, will have a similar bill in the House.

UPDATE 4:30 p.m.: State Parks says surveys to determine participation rates drove up the fees, as did a decision to have a joint pass with the departments of Natural Resources and Fish and Wildlife.

Those agencies were contemplating their own per-person pass for hikers and others who use the state forests and other lands, but they settled on a joint, per-vehicle pass with parks.

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