Public meetings on state budget
Summer is finally upon us, and we're all starting to think about hiking, ideally to a lake where we can cool our blazing heels. This is also the time we need to be thinking about how to pay for hiking opportunities on Washington State Parks and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) lands.
Governor Gregoire has scheduled public input opportunities (PDF) on the upcoming biennial budget in advance of her office's 2011-2012 budget proposal development.
This is an incredibly important opportunity for hikers, particularly in light of the hard--and successful--fight we waged to preserve access to DNR recreation areas earlier in 2010, and threatened closures to state parks in 2009. But while lands were kept open, the agencies are still in dire straits. If you had a dollar for everyone who hiked at Tiger Mountain this summer, you’d have more money than DNR has to manage all of its trails and campgrounds.
If you attend one of these meetings in your area (meetings are in Tacoma, Everett, Vancouver or Spokane), you will have a chance to directly address the Governor's staff on the importance of recreation on our state's public lands.
Here are some key points you might consider making:
Recreation is a core public service. It supports Washington's economy, both through the outdoor industry and by providing revenue to gateway communities. Most importantly, outdoor recreation is fundamental to our citizens' quality of life.
We cannot continue to balance the budget on the backs of our state land management agencies. DNR's recreation program, in particular, is on the brink of collapse. Non Highway and Off Road Vehicle Activities (NOVA) funds have to be restored to the grant-funded projects and direct appropriations for which they were intended.
The DNR Sustainable Recreation Working Group came up with a set of policy proposals to fund recreation on Department lands, including user fees, release from liability for public and private land recreation, and a new class of DNR trust lands. The Governor and legislator must act on these proposals this year to ward off massive recreation closures on agency lands.
Please take some time to attend one or more of these meetings. WTA will be there, and we hope to see you. You, and the landscapes you love, will be glad you did.