Washington State Parks turn 100 this year, and they're showing their age. But you can help them.
Starting to see the impact of cuts
The legislature has cut general funding for State Parks by 79 million dollars since 2007. These devastating cuts have resulted in seasonal closures, reduced services and deferred maintenance. If we don't reverse this trend, we could see some of the crown jewels of our park system closed due to concerns for public safety and the environment.
This week, The Seattle Times released an informative article highlighting some of the problems facing our park system:
"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."
Hikers and campers have likely already seen some of the effects in their favorite parks. The article details a few examples:
"At Lake Wenatchee State Park, storm damage downed so many trees that more than half of the campsites are unusable, with the recreation season fast approaching. Cleanup is slower, with fewer year-round staff to tackle the mess."
"Meanwhile, all over the state, portions of trails, scenic overlooks and campgrounds are cordoned off because there is no money to repair or maintain them."
The legislature is currently developing their 2013-2015 budget, so this is the time to speak up for parks.
How to help state parks
Call your state senator and tell him or her that we need to reinvest in our state parks. Share your experience enjoying these special places and urge the legislature to support $27 million in general funding for State Parks.
Here are some tips for calling elected officials:
- Call the legislative hotline: 1.800.562.6000 and ask for your senator's office.
- Identify yourself (tell them if you are a constituent) and why you are calling: "I believe that Washington needs a budget that invests in our state parks. Please support $27 million in General Fund appropriations for Parks."
- Keep your call short and courteous.
- Remember to thank the staff member for his or her time.
Thank you for speaking out for trails!
In great news for hikers, Whatcom County Council approved a new park for the county with a vote of 5-2 last night. Once approved by the state Board of Recreation, the new Lake Whatcom Forest Preserve Park, at 8,844 acres, will become one of the largest local parks in the nation. (Portland's Forest Park, as a point of comparison, is about 5,100 acres.)
Speaking up for new northwest recreation opportunities
WTA's Northwest Regional Manager Arlen Bogaards spoke at the meeting, highlighting the accomplishments of WTA's local trail volunteers and partnerships to create great trail systems, including recent trail work at nearby Larrabee State Park. Dozens of trail users that included families, hikers, mountain bikers and trail runners also spoke up on behalf of the new park.
Washington Trails Association and other groups, including Conservation Northwest, have all advocated strongly for the county creating the new park from lands previously held by the state for timber harvest.
The demand for outdoor recreation in and around Bellingham continues to grow, and the new park will provide hikers new recreation opportunities in a wild forest landscape while preserving a local ecological resource. As many as 55 miles of new trails are proposed in the coming years.
As the number of trail users and volunteers in the Northwest region of the state grows, WTA is eager to help Whatcom County land managers and elected officials plan for the future of this landscape.
What's involved in building a brand new trail?
While it may be a while before the new park trails are created, you can join WTA in building a brand new trail at Larrabee State Park from The Cyrus Gates Overlook at the top of Cleator Road to Lost Lake through some amazing cliff bands and previously uncharted territory in the Chuckanuts.
The 2013 state legislative session opened in Olympia Monday, and WTA is already working on advocating for issues that are important to hikers, including funding to keep Washington State Parks open, safe and maintained.
The lay of the land in Olympia
This promises to be one of the most interesting legislative sessions I've seen in my 12 years as WTA's Advocacy Director. After the November elections, Democrats in the Senate held a 26-23 vote majority. But in a twist, two Democrats joined the 23-member Republican caucus, giving the newly-formed 25 member coalition the power to select a Senate Majority Leader and appoint Committee Chairs and members.
One of the Democrats who joined the coalition—Senator Rodney Tom, of Bellevue—was chosen as Senate Majority Leader, and most Committees are now chaired by Republicans.
Join us at lobby day to stand up for trails
WTA prides itself on working across party lines, so we're as excited as always to rejoin the fray in Olympia and advocate for some issues that are important to hikers. Here is a quick sample of the issues we'll focus on this year:
- State Parks' Budget Woes: State Parks has seen its share of the state's General Fund decline from $98 million in the 2007 biennium to $17 million in the 2011-2013 budget. This year, that number may fall to zero. Outgoing Governor Christine Gregoire allocated $19 million to State Parks in her proposed budget. State Parks has asked for $27 million. Given the importance of State Parks to our economy and quality of life, we think this is an important investment. WTA supports State Parks' funding request.
- Joint State/Forest Service Pass: We've heard loud and clear that our members and other hikers would like to see a joint pass that provides access to both state and federal lands. To that end, we'll work with legislators to get funding in the Operating Budget that will assess the best way to structure a joint pass.
Other key issues
This year, we'll be advocating for a range of local and federal issues that impact Washington hikers. From forest planning to funding public lands and trail maintenance, we'll keep hiker's interests front and center for decision-makers.
This week, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest gave the go-ahead for a Canadian mining company to begin exploratory drilling on Goat Mountain, a setback in the ongoing fight to protect Goat Mountain Trail (#217) and Mount St. Helens Monument from mining threats.
Mining to be limited to 63 holes at 23 sites
Forest officials released a 'Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact' on exploratory drilling near Goat Mountain on the northeast corner of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Ascot Resources, a British Columbia mining company, can now begin to drill 63 holes at 23 sites to assess cores for the presence of gold, silver, copper and molybdenum.
Fighting for Goat Mountain since 2006
WTA's 2006 and 2007 Endangered Trails Reports listed Goat Mountain due to mining threats. At the time, Idaho General Mines and General Moly were attempting to site mining operations at Goat Mountain. Those companies withdrew their proposals and Ascot stepped in with its exploratory proposal. While smaller in scale than a mine, exploratory drilling opens the door for larger operations.
Help Protect Goat Mountain
We have grave concerns about potential mining at Goat Mountain. This project has the potential to obliterate the lovely Goat Mountain Trail, permanently impact the Lewis River Horse Camp and to seriously damage wildlife habitat. Mining in the shadow of Mount St. Helens strongly conflicts with the environmental and scientific purpose of the Monument.
The final cut is that these lands were purchased by the Nature Conservancy and donated to the Forest Service to protect it from development. At the time of the donation, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest Supervisor said that the acquisition would "...aid in the preservation of the scenic beauty of this area which is to become an important Monument portal.”
Sign up to help us protect Goat Mountain
WTA is coordinating with other statewide and regional organizations to protect the Goat Mountain Trail and these important public lands.
The Department of Interior is holding a series of listening sessions across the country. Seattle's listening session will be held on July 1 from 6:30 pm-9:00 pm at Franklin High School in Seattle.