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Choosing the Right Pass

Posted by Susan Elderkin at Apr 28, 2011 04:20 PM |
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determine which recreation passes to purchase and which one you will need at the trailhead with Washington Trails Association's Recreation Pass Info page, What Pass Do I Need F.A.Q. and Discover Pass F.A.Q.

If last week's passage of a new user fee for Washington state recreation lands has you scrambling to figure out which passes you'll need this summer, you're not alone.

Most hikers don't consider which agency manages the place where they are planning to go for a weekend day hike. Federal land or state land? National forest or national park? National wildlife refuge or state wildlife area? Most people don't know all of the land jurisdictions, and many don't care.

Well, plan for a tutorial as you determine which recreation passes to purchase and which one you will need at the trailhead. Here at Washington Trails Association, we are trying to get you the most accurate information about all of the recreation passes. Check out our Recreation Pass Info page to find out the difference between an America the Beautiful Interagency Pass, a Northwest Forest Pass, the new Discover Pass and more. We have what they cover and what they cost.

The Recreation Pass Info page has the facts. Now what if you have questions? What if you can't decide which passes you'll need and want some help? Then you'll want to peruse our What Pass Do I Need Q & A. Can you find your question among those that we answered here? We hope so. If not, shoot me an email at, and I'll do my best to answer it (and add it to our list).

Finally, how about that Discover Pass? It's good news that state parks and recreation areas in Washington will remain open this year (without the Discover Pass many were likely to be shuttered). But it's another pass to have to figure out, and it will be required starting July 1. We've attempted to demystify some of your questions in our Discover Pass F.A.Q. We don't have all of the answers yet (like where to buy the passes), but as soon as the agency lets us know, we'll be adding them to this page.

It is never fun to drive to a trailhead only to find out you don't have the correct pass and there is nowhere close to buy one. If you do a little planning this spring, your hikes this summer will be all that much more enjoyable - even if you have to fork over another $30 to hike at Mount Si or your favorite state park.


Washington State Discover Pass

Here is a commentary I just sent to former representative Lynn Kessler and a few agencies:
To: Ms. Lynn Kessler

Dear X-Representative Kessler,
Reading your commentary in Seattle Times, 28 April 2011, I agree with your recommendations about the Washington State Parks fee collection system.
Washington Trails Association and other outdoor organizations have endorsed the $10/day-$30/year park user fee "Discover Pass" in recognition of the fact that the State is in dire financial straits and WaState Government is inclined to cut funding and threatens to close some State Parks as a higly visible gesture, following the old government wisdom of "Cut where it hurts most and is most visible!". We all agree that additional funding is needed to keep the State Parks and DNR trails open.

The 22 M$ collected from the opt-out license plate/tab renewal is a sign that this method of money collection is (was?) highly efficient, targets the population that can afford to own a car, and is a low overhead operation without any worry about enforcement of the $99 penalty. It would be easy to increase the opt-out amount to $10. The increase to $15 you recommended is getting close to the "pain threshold". Apparently the opt-out licence tab renewal donation system will not be discontinued once the new daily/annual fee system becomes operational, but people who already spent $30 or $60 are less likely to donate another $5.

The previous attempt to implement a $5/day fee a few years ago was a failure, and we should have learned from those mistakes. I wonder if the 4 M$ spent to implement the fee includes the one-time expenditure for permit dispensing machines and I would like to know if those machines still exist, if they are operable and if they can be re-deployed instead of having to buy new ones.

I noticed that the former mandatory fee collection boxes were converted to voluntary fee donation boxes. Every once in a while I have stuck in a dollar when I used the rest room at one of the trail heads along the Iron Horse Trail. In those years since the mandatory fee was discontinued, how much has the State collected from the voluntary donation boxes?

The one nice feature of the proposed annual pass is that it will cover both State Parks, DNR and Fish and Wildlife Access sites, where previously separate permits were required for parking.
Please forward these comments to the representatives and the senator of the 24th Legislative District.
Sincerly, EWS

Posted by:

"EckartS" on Apr 28, 2011 08:52 PM