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Illahee State Park on potential mothball list
Illahee State Park is one of many on a list of state parks that could be mothballed due to the state budget deficit.
The governor’s budget proposal asked the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission to prepare a scenario that reduces its budget by more than 22 percent, or approximately $23 million, for the commission’s 2009-11 biennium, which begins July 1.
Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission spokeswoman Virginia Painter said the commission first began making cuts in other areas to avoid transferring, mothballing or closing parks. The commission’s strategy involved reducing staff and programs at headquarters and regions, for a savings of $3.5 million; freezing equipment replacement, saving $2 million; and eliminating support for non-core programs.
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission also proposed to transfer 13 parks to other government entities. The other jurisdictions would maintain the parks themselves and keep them open to the public. Faye Bainbridge and Fort Ward state parks on Bainbridge Island are among the 13 parks that could be transferred to other jurisdictions.
Painter said the more than 30 parks that may be mothballed are ones that could save the state at least $300,000 each for each two-year budget.
She said mothballing a park means locking the gates, securing the restrooms and having minimal staffing available to provide basic stewardship. People would still be allowed into the park on foot and it could possibly reopen later if the money became available.
“Basically, what it means is that we would watch breathlessly and hopefully for the parks to get that money back,” Painter said.
She said Illahee State Park, a 75-acre camping park, saw nearly 192,000 visitors in 2008. She said mothballing Illahee would save the state about $270,000 a year.
Employees who are laid off due to closing or mothballing a state park can “bump” someone with less seniority at another park that will remain open.
Painter said before a park is mothballed, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission will talk to community members to determine what, if any, specific things or areas of the park should be protected. Volunteer groups may help with cleanup and maintenance at mothballed parks as well.
“People are connected with particular parks that are their favorites and people think parks are needed in times like these,” Painter said.
The public may give feedback to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, P.O. Box 2650, Olympia, WA 98504-2650.