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$30 annual fee to bring cars into state parks is likely to be a reality

If you're planning to take a car into a state park this summer, it may cost you.

The state Senate passed a bill last week that Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-San Juan Island, says is the only way to keep parks open.

Under SB 5622, visitors will be charged a $30 annual Discover pass or a $10 day-use permit to bring a motor vehicle into state parks. The pass would also apply to accessing state lands owned or managed by the Department of Natural Resources and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“It's absolutely critical if we are going to keep our parks open,” Ranker said. “The parks budget was being cut 90 percent in the governor's proposal … on the list of parks that would have be to be fully or partially closed was Moran State Park … What if we just locked the gate at Mount Constitution? What does that do to our community? With that as an alternative, I'll pay $30.”

The bill passed the Senate with a 33-14 vote and advanced to the House of Representatives. Ranker is confident it will pass.

Residents who volunteer 24 hours of service per year would receive a complimentary pass and hunters and fishermen would be issued a vehicle access pass for Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife lands when they purchase their hunting or fishing license. There are also certain days throughout the year when a pass will not be required. Anyone driving through is allowed a 15-minute stopping period; those walking into a state park will not be charged.

Ranker encourages families and friends to carpool when they want to spend a day at Cascade Lake.

“It's unfortunate. Nobody wants to do this, but the reality is that we have to start paying,” he said. “The alternative is that we will close parks and recreation areas. Hunting and fishing alone provides 1.4 billion in revenue and supports 14,700 jobs.”

The bill will raise $69 million for state parks, and it includes a provision that no recreation areas or state parks will be closed.

In 2006, lawmakers repealed a $5 day-use parking fee after attendance at state parks dropped by about 16 percent throughout the three years the fee was in place. Ranker says surveys done with Washington State University have shown that a $30 yearly pass won't affect attendance.

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