Keep state parks for everyone’s use | Editorial
August 22, 2012 · Updated 2:05 PM
The Legislature wants our state parks system to become 100 percent operationally self-sufficient. Our response is that the idea is – where do we start? – “misguided,” “unattainable,” “self-defeating.” OK, let’s just call it what it is – “stupid.”
Kirkland residents have two state parks within driving distance of many homes. Saint Edward State Park on Finn Hill is located in Kenmore but many Kirkland residents are forced to drive to the park and now pay a fee. The park is a 316-acre day-use park with 3,000 feet of freshwater shoreline on Lake Washington.
Bridle Trails State Park in the Bridle Trails neighborhood is located on the border with Bellevue and is also very popular with Kirkland residents. The park is a 482-acre day-use park, is well-known for its horse trails and equestrian shows.
But the changes being floated in Olympia are not in the best interests of Kirkland residents that use these parks.
Followed to its logical conclusion, the idea either would change the parks to something we no longer recognize, or make using them so expensive as to put them beyond the reach of the average resident to enjoy.
Consider the situation.
The state has 117 developed parks, 35 heritage sites, 13 interpretive centers and more than 700 historic structures. Keeping them open to the public is – obviously – expensive. But, we call them public parks for a reason – they are available to the public and the public pays taxes to support them.
Our parks system also takes care of important geologic sites, places where our state’s pre-history is preserved, and protects vulnerable habitats.
All of that gives residents places where they can enjoy the natural, cultural and historic treasures that we have in our state. And they do.
The park system estimates that it receives 40 million visits a year. About 94 percent of these are day visits – people just dropping by to enjoy and learn about our state.
The Legislature came up with a way to raise money for parks called the Discover Pass, charging people $30 annually ($10 daily) to use the parks. It’s been a monumental flop, raising less than 50 percent of what was projected.
For many Kirkland residents they live within walking distance of these parks and are able to use them on a regular basis without paying. For others, who live just far enough away, the Discovery Pass has become the reason not to enjoy the parks. Paying $10 for a day pass so you can drive a couple of miles and park your car is a deterrant to most who have enjoyed these parks in the past for free.
Not surprisingly, the Parks Commission has rejected the Legislature’s attempt at self-sufficiency. Lawmakers should find the money already raised by our taxes to keep the parks open for all and not charge those who want to enjoy the great outdoors but live a little too far to walk.