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Opt-out Revenue Up for State Parks

Posted by Jonathan Guzzo at Oct 21, 2009 10:40 AM |
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Lower Wallace Falls

Newsflash! Washingtonians care about their state's public lands. A lot.

State Parks advocates had a lot to sweat about last legislative session, as recession-driven budget cuts requested by Governor Gregoire threatened the status of nearly forty parks

The Legislature stepped in with a few solutions to the funding crisis. One was HB 2339 which adds a $5 opt-out fee to motor vehicle license tab renewals. The Legislature assumed that if just 50% of tab renewers complied with the fee, it would raise sufficient funds to keep Parks open. 

So far the news is quite good. Early returns indicate that people are paying the fee ahead of projections. A cool $1.4 million has been raised so far from the program. (See this piece in the Tacoma News Tribune).

WTA is certainly pleased that the tab fees are coming in ahead of projections. But there is more to the funding story that isn't yet being reported.

The Legislature also acted to prevent State Park closures by transferring nearly $10 million in Nonhighway and Off-Road Vehicle Activities (NOVA) Program funds into State Parks' budget - a move that was not without serious repercussions. A whole class of state public lands is left beggared by the transfer of NOVA funds - most notably, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) lands. DNR previously received nearly $3 million a year in direct appropriations and grants from the NOVA fund, meaning that signature trails like Mount Si, Mount Pilchuck, Taylor Mountain and Gothic Basin are going to be significantly challenged for the foreseeable future.

That's why it is imperative that the Legislature transfer DNR's share of the NOVA funds back in this remaining year of the biennium. Furthermore, they need to start implementing the recommendations of the Sustainable Recreation Working Group. These actions will help start to right the challenges facing DNR's recreation program.

You can help set these important changes in motion by contacting your Senator and Representatives and letting them know how much you care about DNR's recreation opportunities. Talk about your favorite hikes on DNR lands, and urge them to work to sustain and enhance those special places. You can find your elected officials here.