kima

 Remembering the "good old days" is a fairly universal practice.  The "old days" part just depends on the ages of those doing the remembering!   So, remember now the good old days, the ones nearly a decade ago, when people could visit the amazing Washington State Parks for free?

With the state budget flush with cash, Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler wants to return to those golden days of yesteryear and make access to state parks free once again.

Schoesler's prefiled bill, Senate Bill 6174, would eliminate the requirement to purchase a Discover Pass to enter a state park with a vehicle.

Back in 2011 the Legislature created the Discover Pass as a way to help fund state parks following the Great Recession.  Schoesler says, "At that time, the state faced a severe budget crisis, so those who used our state parks were asked by Governor Gregoire and the Legislature to pay a user fee ....the recession has been over for many years, but nobody has done anything to help taxpayers who like our state parks. In fact, state park attendance has gone down dramatically. I think our state parks are a treasure to enjoy, not a revenue source. It’s time we give something back to those hard-working taxpayers who want to use our state parks.”

And here's what makes the idea work. Budget watchers say the state is expecting to receive an additional $850 million in revenue since the current two-year state operating budget was passed last April.

With a decline of about 7 million visits per year to Washington’s state parks and recreation lands compared to the number of visits in the two years before a Discover Pass was required, Schoesler says many people, especially low-income residents, choose not to visit a state park.  He concludes, “Our state parks offer great recreational and camping opportunities, and they allow visitors a chance to see some of Washington’s great scenery...let’s give outdoor lovers, families and our seniors something they can enjoy for their tax dollars, without requiring them to buy a Discover Pass to enjoy it.”"