Thursday, January 26, 2012

Proposed changes to Discover Pass get public hearing today

Last session, legislators saved all 120 of our state parks from closure by implementing a new user fee system.  Beginning last July, vehicles entering state parks needed to display an annual "Discover Pass" (or a day pass) in order to park.  While there is some flexibility for those who are only parking momentarily to use the restroom or drop off recyclables, vehicles without a pass can be ticketed.

The intent behind the legislation was to prevent the shuttering of state parks, the majority of which are not self-supporting.  And in fact,  41 other states already charge user fees at their state parks, so Washington was in the minority of states that did not.

While thousands of Washingtonians have purchased Discover Passes since they became available last summer, these sales haven't generated enough revenue so far to stave off more cuts to the parks system.  So lawmakers are examining possible tweaks to the Discover Pass program that may make it more user-friendly, encourage more people to buy the pass, and keep the gates at our parks open.  Among the proposals being considered are allowing the pass to be transferable among vehicles in the same household, capping the pass fee at $30 even, and clarifying which state lands require a Discover Pass for parking.

Today in the House General Government Appropriations and Oversight Committee, five bills that propose changes to the Discover Pass will get public hearings.  The bills are:
The hearing takes place at 2:00 p.m. in the John L. O'Brien Building, Hearing Room C.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.