Tuesday, August 9, 2022
Aug. 9, 2022

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State parks to close Friday if Legislature can’t seal budget deal

Southwest Washington's Paradise Point, Battle Ground Lake, Reed Island and Beacon Rock would be affected

By , Columbian staff writer

More than a million people who planned on visiting Washington state parks will have to scramble for a Fourth of July week “Plan B” if the state government goes into a partial shutdown.

“Nobody would be allowed to enter the parks Friday, June 30,” said  Virginia Painter, spokeswoman for the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. “Campers who were in there the night before, they’d have to pack up and leave in the morning so staff can clean up. … Then the gates would be swung,” Painter said.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday that an agreement had been reached in principle on a two-year spending plan, but details were not released and approval is not assured. 

If the Legislature doesn’t approve a budget before the end of the state’s fiscal year Friday, a partial shutdown would occur starting Saturday — but state parks employees would use the day before to clean up and mothball sites before they got laid off.

The weekend of the Fourth of July is the busiest camping of the year for Washington State Parks, which includes more than 100 developed sites.

Painter said roughly 11,000 reservation holders as well as an estimated 1.4 million campers and day-use visitors could be blocked from entering the state parks between June 30 and July 8, which would cost the parks commission roughly $2 million in revenue. 

Southwest Washington’s Paradise Point, Battle Ground Lake, Reed Island and Beacon Rock would be affected by the shutdown. 

Last week, the parks commission contacted campsite reservation holders to let them know about the potential shutdown and urged them to keep an eye on its website for potential changes.

“We recognize this is really serious for people. Most folks don’t get a lot of vacation, so it’s a big deal to have a camping trip, and people look forward to it,” Painter said.  “We’d offer a full refund for any camping nights they weren’t able to use because of a shutdown.”

Holders of the Discover Pass, which grants year-round access to state parks, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Natural Resources sites, wouldn’t receive refunds.

Bob Redling, spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources, said wildfire and natural resources police in his agency would continue to work as normal. Its campsites and trailheads probably will be open too. 

Still, DNR is urging people to watch Office of Financial Management website — www.ofm.wa.gov — for the latest news about the status of state services after June 30. 

“As for recreation, I do know that in previous years our planning for possible state government shutdown did envision keeping our developed recreation sites open to the extent possible,” he said.

Columbian staff writer

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