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How Did Trails and Recreation Fare in the State Legislature this Year?

Posted by Andrea Imler at Aug 04, 2015 06:40 PM |
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Hikers showed strong support this year during lobby day and WTA had a regular presence in Olympia all session. That work paid off! Legislators recognized the importance of trails.

Washington State Parks, including popular favorites like Deception Pass State Park, will benefit from the funding support. Photo by Fanguang.

After a record long session, legislators wrapped up their work by passing 2015-2017 operating and capital budgets, which were signed into law by Governor Inslee earlier this summer.

Hikers show strong support for trails, legislators listen

With a number of large scale issues to tackle this legislative session—from the state’s transportation budget to the Washington State Supreme Court McCleary Decision, the outlook for trails and recreation could have been bleak—but it wasn't.

The Legislature exceeded expectations by providing approximately $101 million that will improve parks and trails and preserve wildlife habitat and family farms—a significant amount of funding that WTA is most grateful to legislators for providing in spite of a very tough budget year.

Hikers showed strong support this year during our lobby day and WTA had a regular presence in Olympia all session long—all of that work paid off—legislators heard how important trails are to us!

Highlights of the session include:

Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program

The incredibly important Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, which provides outdoor recreation and conservation grant funding received $55 million – $10 million less than the previous biennium, which will leave some worthy projects unfunded.

Projects that received funding include:

  • Candy Mountain: Benton County will be able to purchase property on Candy Mountain to build a trail that will connect Badger Mountain to Candy Mountain to Red Mountain for a 20-mile ridge trail. Badger Mountain is visited by more than 200,000 people a year, making it one of the most hiked mountains in the state.
  • Mailbox Peak Trail: The Department of Natural Resources received funding to finish the final phase, a 1.3-mile section of the new 5-mile Mailbox Peak trail in King County.
  • Willapa Hills Trail: Washington State Parks received funding to develop 9 miles of the Willapa Hills Trail in Lewis County. The 53-mile railway trail travels from Chehalis to Raymond.

Washington State Parks

The legislature showed support for State Parks during the session by investing in state parks more than in the last biennium. State Parks will receive $31.1 million in public support for operations. This compares to $20.4 million received in the 2013-2015 biennium. For park projects, the capital budget funding came in at $60.9 million - $7 million dollars higher than the last biennium.

WTA applauds legislators for supporting our State Parks!

Department of Natural Resources

The Department of Natural Resources, which manages well known recreation areas such as Mount Si, Gothic Basin and Mount Pilchuck came away with five times the amount of funding for recreation and conservation than they have in the past—an impressive feat during a tight budget process!

Hikers on DNR Lands
Two different trail experiences on DNR trails, including the popular Oyster Dome and Mailbox Peak trails. Photos by j brink and jeongobar.

Teanaway Community Forest

One huge disappointment was the lack of funding for the Teanaway Community Forest, which received only $282,000 instead of the requested $2 million. The reduced funding will postpone the recreation planning process. WTA is hopeful that the community forest will receive adequate funding in future legislative sessions and will be working towards that end in 2016.

Outdoor recreation bill: Signed into law by Governor Inslee and funded in the capital budget

The history-making legislation will provide a senior policy advisor in the Governor’s cabinet and fund the No Child Left Inside grant program, which hasn’t been funded in recent years.

Thank your legislators for their support of trails

Take a moment to thank your legislators for their work to support trails and recreation during a difficult budget year.

WTA is pleased by the overall outpouring of support for trails and recreation in the state legislature this year. We’re committed to keeping the momentum going in future legislative sessions to ensure that our trails receive the funding needed to keep them well maintained to provide a great hiking experience for you.