Exploring the Discover Pass

Sales for new required permits to use state parks off to strong start

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OLYMPIA — Discover Pass sales for vehicles in state parks took off immediately once the new pass became available 13 days ago.

The pass opened for purchase online and in stores throughout Washington on June 15. After nine days, 3,715 passes sold, said Sandy Mealing, a spokeswoman for the State Parks and Recreation Commission.

State parks are relying on Discover Pass sales to make up for a loss of nearly $64 million from the state general fund for the next biennium. Officials admit they expect sales to fall short. The agency estimates the passes will generate $54 million for state parks over the next two years.

In addition, Ilene Frisch, the commission’s finance director, said officials anticipate a slump in the number of $5 donations for state parks included in license tab renewals at the Department of Licensing over the next couple years. The donation is automatically added to vehicle license renewals, but can be undone by a click of a computer’s mouse.

This biennium, the license tab donation program brought in more than $20 million. Officials estimate it will generate only $5 million to $10 million in the next two years.

Beginning Friday, the Discover Pass will be required for daytime access to state parks and areas managed by the departments of Natural Resources and Fish and Wildlife. Virginia Painter, a state parks spokeswoman, said making it available early gave vendors a chance to fix glitches in their sales systems, like failing to send emails to customers notifying them of their pass purchases.

Park visitors can buy a year pass for $30 or a single-day pass for $10. Annual passes cost $35 if purchased over the phone or online after adding transaction and dealer fees. Single-day passes cost $11.50 after those fees.

Officials can fine drivers $99 for not displaying the pass on their windshields starting Friday. However, Painter said they might take it easy on visitors, choosing not to cite them for failing to exhibit their passes.

“I won’t say there won’t be any citations, but I won’t say there will either,” Painter said. “What we’re doing is education. We’re going to be out there talking about the pass and encouraging compliance.”

The pass is available at a variety of places, including state parks, sporting goods stores, retail stores like Fred Meyer and Walmart, online at http://www.discoverpass.wa.gov, and via phone at 866-320-9933.

Justin Runquist: 360-735-5427; justin.runquist@email.wsu.edu.