I had the recent good fortune to join Washington Trails Association for Hiker Rally Day in Olympia on Feb. 15. Over 120 WTA volunteers from all over Washington met with their state legislators to discuss upcoming funding issues for trails and parks. At the same time, the Big Tent Event was going on, which brought together many different outdoor activities groups from across the state and featured several speakers. A highlight of that group experience was a splendid speech by our district No. 40, Senator Kevin Ranker. I took away three key themes from his talk that support continued funding of outdoor initiatives in our state. First, outdoor recreation is a strong contributor to our state economy – more than $21 billion dollars in spending each year, in the form of employment, retail sales, and tourism – on par with aerospace or information technology. Second, outdoor experiences are important vehicles for the education of our children about our connection to the natural world, especially through the “No Child Left Inside” program. And third, our state is well positioned to help legislators in other states understand the benefits of supporting sustainable funding for recreation lands. Senator Ranker made a passionate and compelling case for each of these themes, and urged attendees to make sure their voices are heard by their representatives at the local, state and national level.
I came away from the day with a renewed sense of hope and belief in our democratic process. I urge all of you to let your elected officials know your thoughts on issues that matter to you.