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Illahee State Park not in danger for now
Illahee State Park will remain open thanks to a donation program created by the Legislature.
Starting this summer, when vehicle owners begin receiving annual vehicle license tab renewal notices for September renewals, it will include an automatic $5 donation to keep state parks, like Illahee, open.
“These donations are needed to keep state parks open,” Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission spokeswoman Virginia Painter said.
Vehicle owners may choose not to donate $5, but they must note that on the vehicle license tab renewal form.
The Legislature created the donation program to keep the state from mothballing about 40 state parks, including Illahee State Park, due to budget reductions. If sufficient funds are not collected, the parks may still be in danger of closing or being mothballed.
“We’re very hopeful,” Painter said.
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission’s 2009-11 operating budget was reduced by $52 million and Painter said most of that funding will be replaced by donations from the vehicle tab renewal program.
“The donation program is intended as a replacement for the funds,” she said.
Painter said the vehicle license tab renewal donation program may be long-term, but reminds people it is not a tax and people can opt out of it.
“I believe it’s considered a long-term, but they could change it later if it doesn’t work or something,” Painter said.
The agency also will make other reductions due to budget constraints including cutting headquarters and region staff and programs by $3.8 million; reducing non-core programs by $1.3 million; reducing equipment expenditures by $2 million; and consolidating the region offices from four to three to save $1 million. Painter said the Puget Sound region office will close.
“Our intention is that people will get excellent service at state parks,” she said. “Our intention is to continue to provide excellent parks service.”
Standard (tent) and utility camping fees will be raised by $2 effective July 1 at all state parks. Painter said the Commission typically raised fees every couple years to account for inflation and it applies to any new camping reservations made for arrival dates after July 1.
“If people have already made their reservations and have paid, they won’t be affected,” Painter said.
The new range for fees will be $19 to $24 for standard sites and $25 to $33 for utility sites. Primitive sites and watercraft launch fees remain the same.
Painter said many people contacted the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission saying they would volunteer or pay money to keep state parks open.
“All of these things are ways we can stay open,” she said. “We’re hopeful.”