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Ranker proposes new legislation for Washington Park Discover Pas

Sen. Kevin Ranker - Contributed photo
Sen. Kevin Ranker
— image credit: Contributed photo

by COLLEEN SMITH ARMSTRONG

Editor/Associate Publisher

It was citizens’ number one complaint: the Discover Pass was only good for one car.

A clause in the program that limited transferability between vehicles will become a thing of the past under legislation proposed by state Senator Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island.

“We’ve known since before we wrote the legislation that it would be a work in progress,” he said. “Often you don’t get it right the first time – you get it out there and then make changes.”

Ranker, the prime sponsor of the bill creating the pass last spring, said in a press release that the intent is to add a level of convenience for prospective purchasers and families across the state.

It would amend existing law to allow transferability between two vehicles and would take effect immediately. Current pass holders would be allowed a second vehicle as well.

“Different activities require different vehicles and modes of transportation,” he said. “After hearing from citizens statewide, it’s clear that a non-transferable pass places too large a burden upon already strained family budgets.”

The $30 pass (or $35 if you buy it online or at a retail store) is now required of anyone who intends to park a vehicle, motorcycle or moped at any state park for longer than 15 minutes.

Because of this new fee, all of Washington’s 119 state parks and its 7 million acres of recreation lands were slated to remain open despite a $4.6 billion projected drop in state revenue over the next two years and the many cutbacks in spending that lawmakers have implemented.

The pass was projected to bring in $17 million by the end of the year; so far, it has raised around $10 million. It needs to bring in $72 million in a full year to maintain the current levels of parks.

Ranker said that the state parks department recently laid off 16 people.

“The Discover Pass and other revenues are just not oncoming in,” he said.

Ranker said keeping Moran State Park open not only preserves natural resources and provides recreational opportunities, but is a critical economic driver.

A November survey conducted by Washington State University under the direction of state parks, fish and wildlife and natural resources agencies showed the lack of transferability acting as a negative effect upon revenue collections.

According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, as of Dec. 1, a total of 428 annual passes and 51 one-day passes were sold in San Juan County by online and dealer sales. The department does not have numbers on other sales avenues.

With 26 co-sponsors crossing both sides of the aisle, Ranker expects the bill to move quickly. A public hearing on the proposal has been scheduled in the Senate Energy, Natural Resources & Marine Waters Committee, which Ranker chairs, on Dec. 14. He hopes it will pass through the Ways and Means committee and then the Floor by Dec. 16.

“The sooner it goes into play the more money we may get,” Ranker said.

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