Do you want to go somewhere outdoors this Summer to hike or fish or camp? You better plan some pre-activity suffering on your computer. Why? Washington state, in an effort to prevent the closure of 100 of our 119 state parks, has implemented a new paid access plan for parks. For $30 a year (I’ll come back to this) or $10 daily per vehicle per visit. No problem. I usually donate about $55 a year to the state parks system (typically by way of $5 when I renew my vehicle tabs, and various small cash donations at parks). I love to donate to state parks because I love to visit them. I could almost go on forever about how important parks are, and how blessed Americans are to have such a diverse array of culturally and geographically significant regions to experience. But I wont.
What gets me about this park pass is the overall feeling that the parks system is trying to screw the very people who want to support them.
When the flyers, the newspaper articles, and the signs all say that the annual fee is $30 what would you expect to pay for an annual DiscoverPass? Thirty dollars? Me too. The only way to get the $30 price is to find an open ranger booth at your park. Good luck. Better get online and buy your pass ahead of time. Whats the price online? Thirty-five dollars. Where does that extra money go? Not to the parks, it is a “dealer fee.” You can also go to various businesses and get a Discover Pass if you’re willing to pay a dealer fee. Fees vary as the dealer sets their own fee.
What if you want to pull out on the side of Chuckanut Drive to hike into Fragrance Lake or similar locations? Sorry, you need a pass and the ranger station/camp manager doesn’t even have hours posted. Want to go to DNR lands with no ranger station or management? Remember to purchase your pass online or wherever you pick up your hunting/fishing license.
Once you’ve bought the pass you’re free to go. Stick it on the windshield of your Prius and take off, headed for a park. Next weekend, pack up the boat and larger vehicle (more people exposed to our state parks!) and head off for a longer trip. Just don’t forget that you have to buy another Discover Pass. That’s right, each vehicle regardless of the owner, needs its own $30 annual pass.
Now allow me to ask you a simple question. Does any of this make you want to visit one of our state parks? Do you think this encourages new visitors to the park? I don’t. I think the only people that will put up with this hassle will be folks who already have firsthand knowledge of the beauty of our parks. If you enjoy Washington’s state parks, or just the outdoors I urge you to make a donation to the parks by clicking… Oh wait, the state parks system doesn’t have an easy link so that people may donate online. I suggest you still make a donation by sending a check to the address below.
I urge you to buy a Discover Pass and use it. If you get the chance buy it from a ranger and tell them you think that this is the wrong way to go about keeping our parks open. Show the state parks system that we support them. Spread the word about the wonders of Washington’s state parks. Take someone who has never been to a state park to your favorite park! Help instill in people the desire to preserve and protect this gift. Consider joining the Washington Trails Association. Visit their website and find a new hike near you.
Above all, get out there and have fun. Use the parks, or lose them.
Washington State Parks Donation Address:
Washington State Parks
Attn: Park Donation
P.O. Box 42650
1111 Israel Road S.W.
Olympia, WA 98504-2650