It’s been a busy couple of weeks for DNR’s recreation program. Here’s an update on what has been happening:
· The Recreation Program budget for 2009-2011
· Closing facilities
· Tahuya Focus Group brainstorms about budget
· Thank you for your e-mails!
The Recreation Program’s budget for 2009-2011
As you can see in the following side-by-side comparison of the upcoming two-year budget cycle and the previous two years’ budget, we are looking at about a 40 percent overall cut in funding. The “comments” column explains what these funds can be used for. (An explanation of the fund source follows this chart.)
2007 – 2009 Biennium 2009-2011 Biennium
Fund Source Total Comments Fund Source Total Comments
General Fund $1.1 million Supports all types of recreation opportunities General Fund $436,000 Supports all types of recreation opportunities
Management funds (RMCA, FDA, accounts) $648,000 Enforcement, Implementation of Policy for Sustainable Forest, outreach Management funds $336,000 Enforcement, implementation of Policy for Sustainable Forest, outreach
Recreation Opportunity (Sustainable Recreation work Group) $85,000 Supports the Sustainable Recreation Work Group Recreation Opportunity (Sustainable Recreation work Group) $0 Note: Work Group still needs support through Dec. 2009
NOVA Grants $3.0 million Maintenance of specific facilities & trails and education & enforcement staff NOVA Grants $0 Maintenance of specific facilities & trails and E&E staff
NOVA Road (ORV Fund) $150,000 Maintenance of access roads to recreation sites $0
ORV Account (gas tax) $3.0 million Only for designated recreational facilities ORV Account (gas tax) $3.3 million Only for designated recreational facilities
Direct NOVA Appropriation $884,000 Planning for Reiter Foothills and Ahtanum State Forest, and sign installations NOVA
Account $884,000 Implementing Reiter Foothills and Ahtanum State Forest plans, and sign installations
Volunteer hours* (used as match for grant applications) $1.8 million Trail and facility maintenance Volunteer hours* $1.8 million (estimate) Trail and facility maintenance
Total $10,667,000 Total $6,756,000
NOVA — Non-highway Off-road Vehicle Account
NOVA Grants — The legislature redirected this funding to Washington State Parks for the upcoming 2009-2011 budget cycle. Previously, 82 percent of the revenue collected from ORV license tabs went to the NOVA grant program along with 58.5 percent of the ORV Gas Tax Fund. This represents approximately $9.5 million dollars. The NOVA competitive grant program is managed by the state’s Recreation and Conservation Office
NOVA Road (ORV) — Money that traditionally pays for maintaining roads that support public access.
ORV Account — Percentage of the Washington State gas tax.
Direct NOVA Appropriation — One-time allotment from legislature, which allows us to carry out the plans in Ahtanum State Forest and Reiter Foothills, as well as continue installing new signs.
RMCA — Resource Management Cost Account
FDA — Forest Development Account
* Volunteer hours are estimates and are calculated at $13/hour
The last thing DNR wants to do is close facilities; however, to operate under these new budget constraints, we will need to close some areas.
How will DNR decide which facilities to close?
DNR’s Recreation Program is committed to providing the public with a safe, enjoyable, and sustainable recreational experience, while ensuring that the type of activity allowed in an area has the lowest possible impact to the environment and causes the least amount of harm to DNR’s trust lands. We used the following four factors as our main criteria for closures:
1. Trail Access. DNR’s role in providing outdoor recreational opportunities has evolved in the last 40 years from camping and dispersed recreation to being the primary provider of low-elevation trails and forest roads (motorized and non-motorized) in Washington. Closures will focus on those facilities that don’t support access to DNR trail systems.
· High (Least likely to close)—Facility supports access to an extensive trail system (more than 10 miles).
· Medium—Facility supports access to a trail system (less than 10 miles).
· Low (First to close)—Facility does not provide access to a trail system.
2. Level of use. Closures will include many sites that are more remote and little used.
· Higher (Least likely to close)—More than 30,000 visitors per year.
· Medium—Between 2,000 and 30,000 visitors per year.
· Low (First to close)—Less than 2,000 visitors per year.
3. Maintenance costs-to-visitor ratio. The cost of maintaining a facility is driven by the distance from the field office, amount of vandalism, number of sites to take care of, number of outhouses that need to be pumped out, and number of visits.
· High cost/low visit (First to close)—Greater than 2 hours from work center, higher than average vandalism, less than 10 sites to maintain, one outhouse to pump, and less than 2,000 visitors per year.
· Medium cost/medium visit—Between 1 and 2 hours from work center, average vandalism, between 10 and 30 sites to maintain, between 1 and 3 outhouses to pump, and between 2,000 and 30,000 visitors per year.
· Low cost/high visit (Least likely to close)—Less than 1 hour from work center, low vandalism, more than 30 sites to maintain, more than 3 outhouses to pump and more than 30,000 visitors per year.
4. Service area capability. This fourth criterion concerns the affects that closing a facility might have on resources in the area. Also, how will closing a facility affect the capacity of other nearby facilities to withstand more visits? Will a closure cause one type of recreational use to displace another use?
· High impact (Least likely to close)—The nearest similar recreational opportunity that can absorb additional use without unacceptable impacts (authorized or unauthorized) is more than 60 minutes away.
· Medium impact—The nearest similar recreational opportunity (authorized or unauthorized) is between 30 and 60 minutes away.
· Low impact (First to close)—The nearest similar recreational opportunity (authorized or unauthorized) is less than 30 minutes away. (Generally, this option would be considered for closure.)
When will we know what other facilities are being closed?
In the past few weeks, staff from the recreation program and DNR management, including Commissioner Goldmark, have been finalizing a list of recreation facilities to close. We will announce these closures late next week.
When will DNR close facilities?
Our fiscal year comes to an end June 30, 2009. We will need to close facilities as soon as possible because of our reduced budget in the coming fiscal year. We needed to jump the gun on closing Strawberry Island in the Cypress Island Natural Resources Conservation Area after we discovered that the vault for the outhouse was no longer holding fluids and we needed to stop further leakage into Puget Sound. The island is still accessible for camping, kayaking, and boaters; however, there will be no amenities or facilities for overnight camping. We ask that anyone visiting the island help keep the area clean by packing out their own garbage.
“Closure” can mean one of the following:
· Permanent closure – Facility is no longer open or maintained. Existing site improvements (toilets, signs, etc.) are removed, but the site is still accessible for dispersed recreation such as fishing, hiking, berry picking, geocaching, etc. This in keeping with lease agreements with RCO for areas leased with RCO funds, as well as what is allowed on adjacent parcels of state land.
· Temporary closure – Closed until funding is restored, but the site is still open for dispersed recreation.
· Reduced services – These sites are open but maintained at a lesser level. Lesser level of service could take the form of adopt-a-park, pack it in - pack it out, less maintenance, etc.
· Open seasonally – Facilities are open only for the high-use season, which will vary in region and area.
· Day-use – No overnight camping.
· Increase user support – Users pick up more responsibility for maintenance. DNR continues to pay costs such as pumping outhouses and other maintenance that requires professional-level work.
I will consider any comments you may have on the closure criteria and make any necessary adjustments to the criteria before developing a list of possible sites to close. I will try to get you the list of possible closures to you late next week. To minimize additional cuts down the road and confusion to users, we will be starting to close facilities starting the last week in June. Please know that we are open to your creative ideas and exploring partnerships. But our immediate need is to bring our expenditures in line with our new funding level as soon as we can.
Tahuya focus group brainstorms about budget
The Tahuya State Forest Recreation Focus Group meets regularly with DNR staff to discuss issues and exchange information. Like you, this diverse group of folks is concerned about the impact the budget will have on recreation on DNR-managed lands. At their June 4 meeting, they identified their concerns, priorities and opportunities. I welcome any additional items or thoughts you might have on addressing the budget shortfall.
To view notes from the meeting, visit: http://www.dnr.wa.gov/Publications/a...oup_061709.pdf
The solutions to our budget woes won’t be easy. We can’t solve them in a vacuum; we need your input!
Thank you for your e-mails
My e-mail updates of late have generated a lot of feedback from many of you—especially following budget-related messages. Many of your e-mails express concern, frustration, and anger over the loss of our NOVA grant funding. Other e-mails offer suggestions for ways to do things better. Whatever the tone, all your e-mails are obviously heartfelt and sincere. I really appreciate hearing from you. For those who might be interested, you may download these e-mails and my comments, which have been compiled into one file. My hope is that by reading these e-mails, you may gain a better understanding of what is going on and where we are heading. Download the file at: http://www.dnr.wa.gov/Publications/a...s_june2009.pdf
Keep in touch!
Recreation and Washington Conservation Corps Program Manager
Washington State Department of Natural Resources