In Defense of our State Parks
While the Recession of 2008-09 will claim many casualties, Washington State Parks shouldn't be among them. With over six million visitations each year by folks of all walks of life, our state parks provide close to home and affordable (free to enter-nominal fees to camp or launch a boat) recreation.And I can only imagine as many Washingtonians shun trips to the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone this year due to financial hardship, that our state park's will be visited even more.
Then why the hell is our governor instructing the state parks commission to liquidate 13 state parks? Why should the people of this state who rely on these recreational gems pay the price for her reckless spending during the past 4 years-and the financial indifference given to the parks from her predecessor Governor Gary grid-Locke?
Now, I can understand the mandate for some of the parks to be moved to other government agencies because they would be better served as such. But there are three problems with that notion. County and city governments don't have the money to manage these parks either. County and city parks departments often don't manage their parks at the same high level of resource protection that state parks does-and finally-while some of the parks that are slated to go don't represent any statewide or regional significance-surely a handful do.
According to the State Parks Commission dictate for ridding itself of 13 parks is (Bold emphases by me):
How the parks were chosen: The 13 parks that could be transferred to other owners are in a category of parks deemed by the Commission as “potentially consistent” with the Centennial 2013 Vision. The Commission’s vision, adopted in 2003, identifies a system of parks of uncommon quality,” parks of statewide or greater regional significance.
So, lets look at Osoyoos State Park-one of the parks slated for liquidation. One of only two parks in the state in the Okanogan Valley (the other, Fort Okanogan also on the hit list), a desert-steppe community rife in history (fur trade, the historic Caribou route) and the only piece of public property on the American side of Osoyoos Lake, a huge natural body of water shared by Washington and British Columbia. The warmest lake in BC and one of the warmest in WA and the one of the largest in north central Washington, this lake's shores are rapidly being developed. So instead of protecting even more Osoyoos lakeshore, the governor and the commission find it prudent to get rid of this park?
There's a simple solution for keeping Lake Osoyoos State Park. Its called a day use fee. With over 6 million visitors to the state parks last year and the State Parks Department having to incur a 10 million dollar cut-a day use fee of just 2 or 3 dollars (25 dollar annual) which is very fair and very nominal, can keep these parks from being closed. Add a concession to the day-use area for selling food and sundries and take 10-20% of the profits and more money comes in. It is ridiculous that we won't consider a day use fee (like the majority of state parks departments around the country) and instead rid ourselves of irreplaceable pieces of our natural, cultural, and recreational heritage. Our parks are worth $3 to visit. And our parks are worth saving. Demand that your governor not liquidate OUR lands.
It's ironic that here in the worst economic times since the Great Depression we are thinking of getting rid of public lands. In the Great Depression we increased our inventory of parks. And it is ironic too that Osoyoos, whose full name is Osoyoos Lake State Veteran's Memorial Park because some of the land was given to the state by the American Legion, and now houses a plaque donated by veterans as a memorial to all veterans who served our country-is about to be a Gregoire casualty. What a way to honor our veterans and the rest of our citizens.
(photo- Osoyoos Lake in British Columbia, where they are not closing their provincial parks on this unique body of water)