Monday, May 16, 2011
On July 1 You Will Need A Discover Pass to Discover Washington State Parks
Way back in 2004 I was in Washington and discovered that you now needed a permit to park at Rosario Beach in Deception Pass State Park. Or to park at the parking lot at the south end of the bridge. Not long after that I read that the public did not like having to buy permits to play on Washington State Public Park Lands. And so the park fee revenue raising scheme was dropped.
I remember being appalled when I learned Washington had gone to such a fee scheme. When I moved to Texas one of the things I was surprised by was the fact that to enter a Texas State Park you either pay an entry free or buy a season's pass.
I think the last year I bought a Texas park pass it cost around $60. I don't know what it costs in 2011.
Texas was charging the entry fees back when the state did not have budget woes.
Washington is now resorting back to state park entry fees, due to the state's budget crisis, with shrinking revenue generated by current taxes not bringing in enough money to maintain existing parks.
The Annual Pass in Washington is called The Discover Pass and costs $30. Any vehicle you want to drive on to public state park land will require the $30 sticker on the windshield. If you are caught without a sticker it is a $99 fine.
Day passes cost $10.
The Discover Pass gives you access to nearly 7 million acres of state recreation lands in Washington, including:
* More than 100 developed state parks
* More than 350 primitive recreation sites, including campgrounds and picnic areas
* Nearly 700 water access points
* Nearly 2,000 miles of designated water and land recreation trails
* More than 80 natural areas
* More than 30 wildlife areas
Visitors from out of state will need to buy a pass to enter Washington State Park Land.
Washington State's budget shortfall is projected to be in the $5 billion range. The Discover Pass is expected to being in $64 million every two years.
That is barely a tiny dent in a $5 billion deficit.
The Discover Pass goes into play on July 1, 2011.
I think this Discover Pass idea is wrong in so many ways. First off, the concept of state parks is to provide recreational opportunity for everyone. Charging a set fee for that access is a very regressive tax.
How many families barely getting by, will now forego going to a state park? How much revenue will be lost due to fewer customers buying stuff at businesses that operate near state parks? Like stores selling supplies, fast food joints and others.
If the amount being raised is only $64 million, why not come up with some other means of raising that relatively paltry sum? How about a special Bill Gates tax? It'd be sorta anti-regressive and probably all sorts of not legal.
But Bill Gates makes an awful lot of money with his Microsoft operations in Washington. I know Bill Gates already gets nicked for a lot of taxes, in various ways, but, $64 million, every two years, to keep Washington's State Parks open to everyone, that seems like a bargain.
Bill Gates grew up in Washington. And it still is his home, even though he could live anywhere he wanted to in the world. I'm sure Bill Gates has been to Washington State Parks many times over the years.
If I were Bill Gates, the state legislature would not have to pass some special tax Bill Gates to keep the parks open for free law. I'd just call the governor and ask what I could do to help stop this Discover Pass thing from going into play.
The state may be having a serious budget crisis, but it found enough money to make a Discover Pass website.