The 2021 State Legislative Session was Full of Wins for Trails
From bringing advocates together for our digital Hiker Rally to asking you to help get budgets over the line, we’ve been excited to share the power of advocates during this year's legislative session. This weekend, the state Legislature wrapped up its 2021 session and we're excited to report that outdoor recreation saw wonderful support from lawmakers.
We’ve reported on the legislative session in Olympia all year. From bringing advocates together for our digital Hiker Rally to asking you to help get budgets over the line, we’ve been excited to share the power of advocates. This weekend, the state Legislature wrapped up its 2021 session and adjourned with “Sine Die,” signifying the end of another year in Olympia.
This year, we are excited to report that outdoor recreation saw wonderful support from the Legislature. Although the legislature entered the 2021 session anticipating a large shortfall, the fiscal landscape in Washington has improved, and as a result state lawmakers were able to make meaningful investments into outdoor recreation priorities.
With increased investments into new projects, boosted funding for agency programs and a commitment to advancing equity in outdoor recreation, we feel great about the future of outdoor recreation in Washington.
Here’s how the budgets shook out for our key priorities.
WASHINGTON WILDLIFE AND RECREATION PROGRAM: $100 million (capital)
Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program is the states’ most critical funding source for the development of hiking trails, walking paths and local parks. Strong legislative support for WWRP means funding for all sorts of new projects across the state, including money for parks that are part of our Trails Next Door campaign, like a new King County Park in North Highline.
DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
- Sustainable Recreation: $3.248 million (capital)
- Natural Areas: $4.005 million (capital)
- Teanaway Community Forest: $200,000 (capital)
There was an increase in support for the Department of Natural Resources, with both the Sustainable Recreation and Natural Areas programs receiving additional support compared to the previous biennium budget. These programs help WTA get volunteers outdoors, and their support for areas like the Morning Star Natural Area and the Teanaway Community Forest will directly help us advance our Trails Rebooted campaign.
RECREATION AND CONSERVATION OFFICE
- Outdoor Recreation Equity: $2.325 million (capital)
- Equity Review: $375,000 (operating)
- Statewide Multimodal Trails Database: $200,000 (capital)
The state demonstrated a commitment to advancing equity in outdoor recreation, committing more than $2 million dollars to new grants for new projects that will directly serve those that lack access to outdoor recreation. Further operational funding will help the Recreation and Conservation Office to conduct a thorough review of its grant programs to remove barriers to participation experienced by underserved communities.
WASHINGTON STATE PARKS
- $72.6 million for new projects (capital)
- No Child Left Inside: $4.5 million (operating)
Washington State Parks continues to receive strong support for its programming from the state Legislature, including millions to support new projects and continued development on State Parks land. WTA has supported the No Child Left Inside program for many years, working to increase the grants the program can offer to underserved youth. Capital funding for State Parks will also help support the development of areas like Nisqually State Park.
The legislature also included an investment of $200,000 for the Department of Health to lead the piloting of a “Parks Rx Health and Wellness” pilot program, which intends to offer help doctors prescribe time outdoors to communities who experience poor health outcomes. Legislation also passed that will start a public process about electric bike (e-bike) use on natural surface trails and roads. The process will be led by the Department of Fish and Wildlife and Department of Natural Resources and will look into how to standardize how e-bikes are managed on their land.
Thank you for helping to make this happen. Year after year, we continuously hear from lawmakers how hikers advocates like you help to support outdoor recreation, and this year is no different. Please take some time to thank your legislators for their strong support of outdoor recreation this year!