Politics & Government

Recreation funding advocates lay out list of priority projects for Legislature in 2015

The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition has released its annual list of projects that is is asking Gov. Jay Inslee and the Legislature to include in the 2015 state capital budget. The price tag is $97 million, higher than recent levels, but this reflects growing needs spurred by a growing population and also rising costs for construction and to buy lands, according to Peter Dykstra, president of the bipartisan group’s board.

“When the Coalition was founded 25 years ago, the state was face with disappearing habitat and limited access to the outdoors,” Dykstra said in a statement. “The WWRP has, without a doubt, changed our landscape. This year’s project list proves that communities still need our help protecting their treasured places.”

The coalition request includes money for 220 proposals in 34 of the state’s 39 counties. That includes 21 multi-use trails, 37 farmland conservation easements, 45 projects to preserve or conserve habitat, and 114 projects for outdoor recreation including state and local parks and public access to waterways.

In South Sound the request includes 21 Pierce County projects with four of them at Tacoma’s Point Defiance, another six in Thurston County and eight in Mason County. You can read the bipartisan group’s county-by-county list here, and its press release issued Thursday is here. The Point Defiance requests from the Tacoma Metropolitan Park District include $3 million for five miles new trail, $1.75 million for a marine boardwalk, money to relocate and off-lease dog park and $3 million to develop access to 11 acres along Puget Sound.

The Thurston County requests include a $3 million project from the Department of Fish and Wildlife to preserve some of the Mima mounds formation. It would acquire 745 acres near Maytown south of Tumwater in order to protect what is described as “one of the last native outwash prairies remaining in Washington.”

Other requests include $53,172 to develop a non-motorized corridor through Woodland Creek Community Park to link with Lacey’s Woodland Trail, money for additional parking at Tolmie State Park on Puget Sound, and a $165,000 grant for a conservation easement at Schweichert Farm along Scatter Creek south of Tumwater. The lattter proposal secures a 100 foot riparian buffer protecting salmon and wildlife habitat along a 1,500 stretch of the creek.

Bill Riley, former president of Washington Realtors, said in a telephone briefing with reporters this week that the $97 million target was agreed to by all 19 coalition members on the coalition’s policy committee. Others including executives from REI, Alaska Airlines and Port Blakely Tree Farms spoke of the importance that outdoor recreation and investments in the region’s quality of life help the economy.

Despite the size of the request, the advocates are hopeful and note that Inslee previously requested more than lawmakers, which hadn’t happened since the early 1990s, and they received encouraging responses from key budget writers.

Rep. Hans Dunshee, the Snohomish Democrat who chairs the House Capital Budget Committee, said Friday that the request won’t be the largest he’s received from WWRC. He hadn’t seen the list of projects yet, but said the group’s process of collecting and considering projects is “a pretty good” one.