Washington's Discover Pass required starting July 5

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

Published:

 

Washington’s new Discover Pass — costing $11.50 a day or $35 annually — will be required beginning Tuesday to use more than 7 million acres of state park, forest and recreation lands.

Although the law takes effect Friday, state officials say they won’t begin enforcing the pass requirement after the Fourth of July holiday.

The pass must be visible in the front windshield of street-legal motor vehicles. Campers at state parks do not need the pass. Hunting and fishing license holders do not need the Discover Pass when using state Department of Fish and Wildlife boat ramps, shoreline access areas and wildlife areas if they display their vehicle use permit.

There is a $99 penalty for failing to display the pass. The penalty can be reduced to $59 with proof of purchase of the pass within 15 days.

So while it’s obvious the pass will be needed at spots like Beacon Rock or Battle Ground Lake state parks, a Discover Pass also will be needed to park on state forest lands.

Included in those 7 million acres are large chunks of low-elevation state forests in Southwest Washington, such as the Yacolt Burn State Forest, Mitchell Peak-Siouxon, Toutle Ridge and Buck Creek areas.

Just a few of the local spots where the pass will be required are Rock Creek, Merrrill Lake and Dougan Falls campgrounds; Columbia Hills and Trout Lake Natural Area Preserves, and the Jones Creek, Buck Creek and Bradley Hills trails.

A map of state forest lands where the pass is required can be downloaded at http://www.dnr.wa.gov/RecreationEducation/Topics/OpenClosureNotices/Pages/amr_statewide_rec.aspx.

Eric Wisch, manager of the state Department of Natural Resources’ Pacific Cascade region, said the lands managed by his agency get a lot of dispersed use.

“It’s hard to know some times where our lands start and stop,’’ Wisch said.

The pass is a vehicle parking pass, said Toni Droscher of the Department of Natural Resources in Olympia. If a hunter parks on private forest land, then walks on to state forest, the pass is not necessary.

The DNR has ordered a slew of signs and will be getting them in the field soon to help visitors determine where the pass is needed, she said.

The passes can be purchased online or wherever Washington hunting and fishing licenses are sold. Clark County alone has 28 hunting and fishing license dealers ranging from sporting goods shops to Wal-Mart.

While the pass was touted as costing $30 while moving through the Legislature, passes include a 10 percent transaction fee and $2 dealer fee.

A one-day Discover Pass is $10 base price plus the 10 transaction fee and 50-cent dealer fee for a total of $11.50.

“Without the pass to support state parks, we would have been closing park gates all over the state,’’said Don Hoch, state parks director.

The Discover Pass is not valid at national forest trailheads where a Northwest Forest Pass is needed. The Gifford Pinchot National Forest has more than 30 Northwest Forest Pass sites.

Sno-Park permits will continue to be required at designated winter recreation areas.