News Release 11-067
Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission
1111 Israel Road S.W., P.O. Box 42650, Olympia, WA 98504-2650, (360) 902-8500
Don Hoch, Director
Sandy Mealing: (360) 902-8559
Wash. Telecommunications Relay Service:
State Parks prepares for short-term, dramatic budget gap
Nov. 23, 2011 –
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission has outlined a bold strategy to transform its operating model and be prepared for a budget gap as high as $30 million.
Historically, Washington State Parks has received 75 percent of its operating support from general fund tax dollars. In the current biennium, State Parks received $17 million general fund tax dollars as a one-time “bridge” off of the general fund. To replace lost tax dollars, the Legislature implemented the Discover Pass, a parking fee to access all state-managed recreation lands. Like any new program, the Discover Pass needs improvements and refinements to build public awareness, acceptance and participation.
“The Discover Pass is a vital funding source for state parks,” said Commission Chair Joe Taller. “We are asking the public to support and protect state parks by purchasing the Discover Pass.”
But, the Commission must have a strategy that allows the agency to respond to a “worst-case scenario” if the existing $17 million general fund dollars are cut or if Discover Pass and other revenues fall short. The strategy includes dramatically cutting costs, changing service levels in the short term, and building capabilities for a better-resourced and sustainable future.
“The situation would be bleak if Discover Pass and other revenues do not increase,” said State Parks
Director Don Hoch. “Our goal is to keep parks open, but we need the help and support of the public to do that.”
The unfortunate consequences of a $30 million revenue shortfall include:
• Parks’ reserve fund would be substantially reduced
• Agency staff would be significantly decreased in numbers, even from current levels
• Law enforcement response times would be longer in parks
• Degradation of natural and cultural resources
• Significant increase in deferred maintenance problems, meaning costlier repairs later
• Impact on visitor services
The second part of the strategy is for the agency to reinvent itself for a successful future. Work has already begun on some of these elements, and the remaining elements will be brought to the Commission for review in December 2011 and early 2012. Staff will engage the public and explore ways to flourish in the long term. Elements of the long-term strategy include:
• Expanding fundraising and volunteer efforts
• Developing marketing and promotional capability
• Developing additional business and enterprise capability
• Developing new operating and staffing models, which may include a different mix of skill sets
• Redirecting Capital Program investments to public health and safety and revenue generation
During the upcoming legislative session, Washington State Parks will need support to implement its transformation strategy. The Commission’s message to the Legislature and Governor is to retain and strengthen the Discover Pass as a principal source of operating funds, and retain the existing $17 million general fund “bridge” to support state parks and keep them safe for public use.
Washington’s state park system – the fourth oldest in the nation – will be 100 years old in 2013. The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission believes that state parks are essential to the economic, physical and cultural health of our state. The Commission also believes that the state ultimately has the responsibility to provide high-quality parks to its citizens and to support the care of the natural, cultural and historical resources that are part of this public trust.
Washington State Parks is now on Twitter at WaStatePks_NEWS and YouTube at WashingtonStateParks.