Changes in store for state Parks Discover Pass

San Juan Island
San Juan Island's Lime Kiln state park, above, draws between 150,000 to 200,000 visitors a year. Washington state's Discover Pass went into at all state recreation areas, including state parks, July 1, 2011.
— image credit: Journal file photo

By Maida Suljevic

WNPA Olympia News Bureau

A bill to revise a 2011 law concerning recreational land access pass program that helps create additional operation funds for state parks was approved March 8, clearing the House and moving to the governor’s desk for final approval.

Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 2373 was originally sponsored this session by Democrat Representatives Kevin Van De Wege and Steve Tharinger, both 24th District legislators living in Sequim. An amended version passed the Senate March 6, and the House March 7.

The bill proposes changes to the Discover Pass, which was created during last year’s legislative session and implemented in July. It is required on every vehicle that parks on state recreational lands.

An annual pass costs $30 while a day-use pass costs $10. Vehicles failing to display the pass are subject to a $99 fine. Revenue generated by the pass is distributed to Washington state Parks, the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Natural Resources.

The measure approved by the Legislature includes a variety of changes, including the "transferability" of the pass between two vehicles. The access pass would provide space for two license plate numbers, and become active once it has been marked rather than when purchased.

Officials at state Parks, DFW and DNR would also be able to create a family pass, fully transferable between vehicles. The legislation stipulates that the price of that pass must not exceed $50.

The measure also expands a donation program. When vehicle owners renew their license plate tabs, a $5 donation is included in the total cost. It allows owners to opt-out of the charge, and also expands the donation program to include licenses for mopeds, off-road vehicles, trucks and buses.

State Parks is granted discretion when accommodating events. Park officials may waive the pass or set fees they deem appropriate.

State Parks is also granted the authority to use pay stations to collect fees and sell the pass. Park patrons deposit the payment, using cash or check, in the pay box and a parks’ employee collects the money daily.

The measure is on its way to the governor’s desk for final approval.

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