Our 102-year-old state parks system is one of the oldest and most diverse in the nation and contributes to the health and well-being of our citizens. And its 3 million-plus annual visitors add mightily to the $21.6 billion outdoor recreation economy, especially important in rural areas.
In recent years, overall funding has been reduced significantly. While we kept all parks open, it came at a price. Park level customer services, education, interpretive programs, routine maintenance and safety all suffered noticeably, and our deferred maintenance backlog is nearly $500 million.
Currently state lawmakers are deciding on funding levels for state parks for the next two years. The governor and House have proposed $29 million in general fund support, enough to buy back some cuts. The Senate proposes $5 million, which would trigger further reductions in services and staff.
If you agree with me that cuts have gone too far and that your park system deserves general tax support like other programs, then contact your legislators and urge them to support adequate overall funding for state parks.
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(Brown is a member of the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.)