WA - DNR Recreation budget update
Last week I met with recreation managers from all six of our regions to discuss DNR’s recreation budget matters. I want to give you an update of that discussion as it will directly impact recreation on DNR-managed lands for the foreseeable future.
As you now know, the state legislature diverted our yearly $1.5 million in NOVA grant funding to Washington State Parks for at least the next 2 years. These grant funds are critical in keeping 110 gas-tax supported facilities and trails open and safe. In addition, our general fund budget was reduced by 60 percent, leaving us with only $200,000 a year to maintain 33 recreation facilities and 167 miles of trails. This includes facilities such as Mt. Si, McLean Creek, Lake Spokane, and Ahtanum Snow Park.
As a result of these budget reductions, we are forced to make some painful decisions that will require closing some of our recreation areas—either temporarily or permanently. Many of you may have already caught wind of this. I want to I clear up any confusion or misinformation.
- - First, we have not made any decisions yet as to which sites we will be forced to close. I have asked regional recreation managers and their staff to provide me with a list of their recommendations.
- In cutting our funding, the legislature gave us authorization to close up to 40 recreation sites.
- Decisions about closures will be based on many things, including how remote a site is, sites that don’t support trail-based recreation, and sites that are high maintenance but attract a low volume of visitors.
- “Closure” may mean several things:
** An area’s seasonal closure dates could be extended.
** Temporarily closed until funding is restored.
** DNR may close a facility in an area, nail outhouse doors shut, discontinue garbage service, for example.
** Permanent closures.
** Changing some camping areas to day-use only.
** Reservation only.
- At this point, we don’t have a specific date set for when closures will go into affect. We will keep you updated and in the loop as we work through this difficult process.
Many of you have asked me why DNR can’t rely on volunteers to keep these areas open. Volunteers and user groups are very important to our program and help keep our recreation areas safe, clean, and enjoyable places for the public. We are committed to continue working with these dedicated people.
But the reality is much of our budget shortage can’t be made up for with volunteer time. For example, pumping outhouses requires professionals at a cost of $750 each pump out. Replacing a vandalized picnic table costs $500. $20 to replace signs, etc.
Once the recreation staff and I have developed a list of potential sites we will be forced to close, we will present this information to DNR’s executive management committee for further consideration. My hope is to have these difficult decisions made by July 1, which is the start of our new budget cycle for the 2009-2011 biennium.
I will keep you informed throughout the process and appreciate your patience during this challenging time.
Recreation Program Manager
Washington State Department of Natural Resources