Saturday, March 21, 2009

Closing Washington State Parks Cost Twice as Much

Times are tough, and governments are having to close purse strings. Here in the State of Washington, state leaders are facing a potential deficit of nearly nine billion dollars. The governor recently asked Washington State Parks to figure out how to cut its budget by 23%, or $22.9 million, with direction to transfer some park properties to other jurisdictions, reduce service at others, and completely mothball still more.

The resulting list includes 33 parks that would be “mothballed,” or temporarily closed. The public could still access the listed parks, but only by foot. Parking areas and restroom facilities would be closed and park staff would either be reassigned or laid off. State Parks would realize roughly $8.4 million in savings should they and the Legislature ultimately agree on this approach.

This effects local parks like Lewis & Clark, and Rainbow Falls along with others that wildly popular like Millersylvania Memorial and Beacon Rock that I have written about in this blog.

This creates problems for many parks that have delicate land grant origins. Schafer State Park near Montesano was deeded to the State under the condition that it remain a state park, open to the public. in the absence of that stipulation, the State would have to give the park back to the Schafer family. Discussions of this sort are taking place all over the state.

Closing and shutting down our state parks is the wrong thing to do and many in Olympia know that. Many of them are built from the hard times during the depression era when leaders opened up public lands out of a stimulus necessity. A love affair was born, but ill-fated ideas during this latest round of financial troubles have different priorities in the lead.

State Parks are more often visited by local, lower and middle income user groups that can’t afford to travel farther to other regional and national parks. This takes away local opportunities from communities that are struggling to keep their own local parks, let alone campgrounds and other types of recreation available to its citizenry.

Let’s not forget the number of employees that will lose their seasonal and family wage jobs. The potential damage here is two-pronged with recreational opportunities limited while 33 local communities will feel a sharp financial jolt due to job losses and lost tourism.

We shouldn’t be closing parks. We should be keeping them open as the havens they are during tough times.


Fuzzy Slippers said...

It often amazes me that states think that laying people off is a good way to save money; here in Massachusetts, unemployment is on the rise (as it is most everywhere in the country), so much so, that the unemployment office is hiring hundreds of new workers to take care of the flood of claims, etc. I guess that's a good thing, some people are finding work, but the irony of it is mind boggling.

Part of the problem, I think, is the way that state budgets are organized: x amount of money slotted to x items. Spending cuts in the National Parks will (to these politicians) be fine even if they lead to an increased budget need for unemployment benefits.

Needless to say, the mental well-being of a depressed and anxious population doesn't enter into it . . . no bottom line in giving people a sanctuary.

Gregg P said...

Your point is well taken but by cutting parks, tourism takes a hit. Since the reductions at Mt. St. Helens, the visitation has plummeted, thereby causing more heartaches in the local tourism arena.

Recreation may be considered a luxury, but there is still a segment of the population that can participate and expects the services to exist.

Thanks for coming by!

Mossy Mom said...

This depression was caused by greedy bankers who knew that if they failed the Federal Governemnt (us) would bail them out. Now we have billions perhaps even trillions of dollars going to bail out greedy bankers and a greedy insurance company(btw it was AIG in London not the US that drove AIG into the ground)

Consumers have not see a raise in real wages since 1973 so consumers took out loans to keep the standard of living they were used it. Then the glas-stegal act was repealed and this allowed banks of all types to get involved in all kinds of exotic investment instruments. But they were all based on selling debt. Wall Street was greedy for debt to sell and pushed local mortgage brokers to start lending with no money down and for up to %110 of the value of the house. Then the housing values feel (the housing bubble burst) and consumers could not keep up on their loan payments and could not sell their houses for what they owned on them. Consumers are broke and are buying nothing. That leads to massive lay offs.

In the mean time 28% of the money goes to the top 1% but rich people don't spend their money while poor people tend to spend all their money.

Our governer refuses to raise taxes on the rich, instead she is going to balance the budget on the backs of the poor by cutting healch care, social services and State Parks and State jobs. When you cut jobs you make the problem worse because jobless people are not big consumers.

The gap between the rich and the poor cotinues to grow. We need a State income tax instead of our current regressive sales tax.

Yes low income people go camping in nearby State Parks but the really low income people camp in the National Forests where prices are lower. In the State Parks you see a lot of giant RV's and a few tents. State parks seem to be catering more and more to the giant RV crowd. Some State parks such as Ginko charge tenters the same high rates that they charge RV's with hook ups.

Of course the poorest people don't camp at all, partly because they don't have transportation to the campgrounds.

Check out a free DRN campground some time and you'll see what I mean about the better off going to State Parks while the less well off tend to go to the DNR and National Forest Campgrounds and stay in tents.

Gregg P said...

Hi Mossy:

You are correct in one area. DNR is catering to seniors that have RVs which has priced most others out of the market.

I am refering to one park in particular that is not slated to close...Ike Kinswa about 20 miles east of Chehalis. It is a local favorite and a mix of the market you talked about as well as low income locals that dominate the landscape during the summer months.

Beacon Rock is a wild case. The campground there is so insignificant caompared to the amount of hikers using the trails, but the rock itself needs little in the form of administration. There is parking right off 14. It is the trails adjacent to the campground that will cause a problem. Closed restrooms, all that traffic trying to park somewhere along 14. That is shifting the burden to WADOT if you ask me.

Mossy Mom said...

I was thinking of the free DNR campgrounds such as Lyre river. I did not know the DNR also had pay sites.

Check out Brown Creek Campground in the summer if you want to see where the poor people camp in Mason County.

But that is not counting all the poor people who are now camping year round.

Congratulations on the new job, I understand those jobs are hard to get. My youngest will be old enough to start hiking this summer. Maybe I will take her out to the Ozette triangle or Rialto Beach. Maybe we will run into you there.

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