Parking at state parks could cost $5

Parking at many of the area’s state parks, including Scenic Beach State near Seabeck (above), will probably rise to $5 per year when a new state parks fee structure goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2003.  - Photo by Rogerick Anas
Parking at many of the area’s state parks, including Scenic Beach State near Seabeck (above), will probably rise to $5 per year when a new state parks fee structure goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2003.
— image credit: Photo by Rogerick Anas

Next year, it could cost some green to see some greenery.

The Washington State Parks Commission will consider in the next few months whether to charge a parking fee at state parks including those in Central Kitsap.

“It is with great reluctance but out of extreme necessity that we approved the system wide parking fee” said state parks chairwoman Cecilia Vogt. “But we had no choice. All the state’s citizens pay for parks now, but the funding is inadequate, and until we have an adequate funding source, asking those who use the parks to pay more is our best option.”

The fees will go into effect Jan. 1, 2003.

Budget cuts have got the 125-park system focusing on 90 of its parks for the fee system. Visitors parking at the parks would have to pay $5 per day or $50 per year.

People who fail to pay will be fined $66.

“This is about keeping parks open at this stage,” said Rita Cooper, assistant director for administrative services for Washington State Parks.

Kitsap County is also facing budget crunches, but a parking fee plan for it is not something that is being discussed at this time said Cris Gears, director for parks and recreation for Kitsap County.

“We haven’t made any specific proposal for use or parking fees,” Gears said.

“We have not gone down that road yet,” he said.

Reactions to the proposed fee have run the gamut, Cooper said.

“We received an e-mail with two letters, f and u and nothing else,” Cooper said. They have also heard support for the measure that is expected to generate $3 million its first year.

In June, the commission approved an emergency vehicle parking fee for selected state parks, with a $5 daily vehicle parking permit and a $40 annual vehicle parking permit at Potholes, Maryhill, Spring Creek Hatchery, Beacon Rock, Horsethief Lake and Doug’s Beach state parks.

Cooper said attendence at the parks with parking fees is expected to decline by at least 10 percent the first year, but by the second year should resume their numbers.

The state was hoping to collect about $240,000 by next year from the fees at the aforementioned sites. So far it has collected $95,000.

The newly approved fee level for parking permits will be set at $5 daily and $50 for an annual permit for 2003, 2004 and 2005, and could increase to $7 daily and $70 annually. The commission will annually determine the use of the fee revenue.

Attendance at the Potholes has dropped 50 percent while the other fee parks have seen a drop off of about 20 percent, Cooper said.

State Parks staff will present a status report on the program’s development at the commission’s December 2002 meeting, and also present a proposal for a discounted fee level for low-income seniors and some families with children designated as low-income by the Department of Social and Health Services.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission manages a diverse system of 125 parks and several recreation programs, including boating, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. The 89-year-old park system receives nearly 48 million visits a year.

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