Washington State Park Crisis Update
Washington state’s park system turns 100 this year, but not since the Great Depression has it been so imperiled.
All over the state, many of Washington’s 117 parks, 700 historic buildings and 33 heritage centers and interpretive sites are showing signs of neglect and even abandonment as a result of dramatic budget cuts, the Seattle Times reported.
Former Gov. Chris Gregoire and the Legislature in 2011 eliminated most direct state funding for the parks, money which had provided an average of 70 percent of the system’s general operating budget. Instead, the state bet that $30-a-year Discover Passes sold to visitors would pay the bills.
But revenue projections for the pass proved wildly off the mark.
Reducing hours, cutting back maintenance, laying off rangers and reducing park programing only worsened a crisis for a system that was asking visitors to pay more to get less.
Since 2000, the state has shed 12 of its parks, reduced hours at others, and shifted 66 of its 189 full-time rangers to seasonal jobs. Starting in 2009, the state parks have reduced staffing from 595 full-time permanent employees to 395.
The situation has gotten so bad that Gov. Jay Inslee and key state lawmakers say they are considering restoring some state tax dollars to fund the parks.
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