State to charge fee to use Peace Arch, Birch Bay parks

Published on Thu, Sep 19, 2002 by Meg Olson

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State to charge fee to use Peace Arch, Birch Bay parks

By Meg Olson

The state parks and recreation commission has approved a proposal to charge a $7 parking fee to enter all state parks. The system-wide fee, which would affect Birch Bay and Peace Arch state parks, is being billed as a stopgap measure to maintain parks until a long-term solution to parks under-funding is developed.

“It is with great reluctance but out of extreme necessity that we approved the system-wide parking fee, but we had no choice,” said state parks chairwoman Cecilia Vogt. “All the state’s citizens pay for parks now but the funding is inadequate and, until we have an adequate funding source, asking those who use the parks more is our best option.”

Scrambling to make up a growing budget shortfall due to shrinking revenue from the state budget, the parks commission put a $5 daily parking fee, or a $40 annual permit, on six state parks. At their September 12 meeting that fee was spread to all parks, to be applied January 2003. Daily fees would be $5 until 2005 when they would go up to $7. Annual permits would be $50 until 2005 and then $70.

The state parks isn’t blazing new trails in considering charging for access to recreation resources when faced with a shrinking budget. Whatcom County parks charges county non-residents $4 a day or $33 a year for use of county parks from May through November. The state department of fish and wildlife has a $10 vehicle access decal, free with hunting or fishing licenses, needed to use their wildlife and water access points. A Northwest Forests Pass, at $30 per year, is needed to park at trailheads and use other facilities in Oregon and Washington national parks and forests.

State parks public information officer Thuy Luu-Beams said staff would prepare an implementation plan for the December 12 parks commission meeting, which would work out details of fee collection, including a list of possible parks to be exempted. They will also look into alternatives to ensure seniors and low-income families can still afford to access state recreation resources.

Peace Arch park manager Wayne Eden is resigned. “I can see the need for the revenue – we’re downsizing now and looking at closing parks – but I’d hate to discourage people from using the park,” he said. “The commission has a lot of things to consider and I’m confident they will. For now it’s a wait and see thing.”

One of the challenges at Peace Arch will be how and where to collect the fees. ‘I don’t really have the staff,” Eden said. “I’d be like the lone ranger, more a collection agent than anything.”

At Birch Bay State Park ranger Robert Meyer agreed the new fees will be a logistical challenge but they were already preparing drop boxes to be installed along Birch Bay Drive for fee envelopes, which he hopes will eventually be replaced with automatic ticket machines. “We’ll have to drive around and do periodic spot checks,” Meyer said. “With opening the extra fee envelopes it will be a lot more work.”

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