Hikers in Olympia Lobby Representatives to Keep State Lands Open
It's not often that you find hikers in suits and heels, and it's even less often that they have the chance to talk face to face with the politicians who represent them, but in the face of potentially devastating funding cuts to state parks, hikers did just that yesterday.
Sixty hiking constituents from 26 different districts around the state descended on Olympia yesterday to make it known that they care about state lands. They were responding to a two-year budget proposal that leaves state parks $8 million short of what they need just to maintain the status quo to keep parks running.
The morning started off with the Director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, Kaleen Cottingham, talking to a rapt audience of WTA members, volunteers and supporters about the current state of recreation funding in Washington. Following this, WTA's advocacy director, Jonathan Guzzo, briefed the lobbyists on the issues surrounding funding for state parks and on how to talk about these issues with representatives.
Two years ago WTA helped instate the Discover Pass to increase revenue for state parks, but the pass hasn't raised as much money as was hoped. Currently, $19 million of the state's budget is designated for state parks, but that doesn't account for the lower-than-expected funds received from the Discover Pass. Given that 40 million people visit Washington's 120 parks every year, it is crucial that parks get the $27 million they need just to cover their day-to-day operating costs. With the threat of underfunded parks closing either seasonally or permanently burning on their minds, WTA's eager lobbyists set off on the three-block walk to the capitol to meet with their various representatives.
In the tradition of true democracy, small groups of WTA advocates filed into each of their representatives' offices in the capitol building to hash out the issues of state lands funding. Many representatives were receptive to hikers' concerns, being hikers themselves, but they also stressed that there just isn't much money to go around these days. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that representatives appreciate hearing directly from hikers' mouths that they value state lands and would be devastated to see parks close.
Hikers concluded the day by writing thank you notes to their representatives asking them to consider allocating more funding to state parks. It is this kind of personalized message from ordinary constituents that will be most effective in influencing politicians' decisions about public lands.
Want to help keep state parks open? Call the Washington legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 to make your voice heard.