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Parks step up marketing, seek more money from state

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Aug. 14, 2012 at 11:20 am with No Comments »
August 14, 2012 12:06 pm

Sales of the Discover Pass for state recreation lands continue to disappoint. In June, when sales of the parking pass were expected to shoot up as people planned their outdoor adventures, they turned out to be half of what was projected. That capped the pass’s first-year haul of $13 million for state parks, down from a projected $23 million or more.

The parks commission is taking a two-pronged strategy: step up marketing, and ask the Legislature to cancel plans to completely wean the more than 100 state parks off of taxpayer money.

The board on Monday sent a request to Gov. Chris Gregoire’s budget office for $18 million in the next two-year budget cycle, saying it can’t live on fees alone.

The request had been expected, but it was bigger than staff had previously conceived. In the report to the Office of Financial Management, the commission said it’s relying on estimates that take a middle ground between the most conservative and most optimistic projections for Discover Pass sales. The board said it needs $3 million for contracts and inflation costs, $12.4 million for maintenance, preservation, training, programs and some increases in field staff, and $2.6 million for marketing, partnerships and data collection and analysis.

Parks paid a contractor an initial $157,500 through this summer to advance parks and the Discover Pass through social networking.

Now the agency is negotiating with the contractor with an eye toward continuing the marketing work. The contract allows for a first extension through summer 2013 at a price of up to $250,000. But details of the extension haven’t been finalized, said spokeswoman Sandy Mealing.

Separately, the agency’s new marketing coordinator is working to set up radio advertising. The agency is finishing up an agreement with the Seattle Area Radio Association for a fall campaign promoting Discover Passes as gifts, Mealing said.

And if you’ve already heard radio ads mentioning the pass, it may be the ones promoting yet another marketing effort: through Sept. 30, parks staff says, the car dealership Carter Subaru is giving away a free Discover Pass to everyone who test drives a new car.

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