Special to the Reporter
On April 5, the Senate passed Sen. Dino Rossi’s bipartisan proposal to help secure the future of Washington’s state parks and establish a reliable source of funding for park preservation, maintenance and improvements. The bill, which required 30 votes to pass, was adopted by a vote of 36 to 12.
“I’m the youngest of seven, raised on a Seattle public-school teacher’s salary, and we spent my youth camping, fishing and hiking throughout the state of Washington, so these parks were very important to my family,” said Rossi, R-Sammamish. “We weren’t alone. Thirty-three million visits to our parks happen each year. It’s an economic engine that generates 1.4 billion dollars per year.
“Washington state parks are a signature of who we are as Washingtonians; yet they are more than a half a billion dollars in disrepair, and it’s embarrassing. Our parks have to be functioning. I’m pleased that my Senate colleagues, including 11 Democrats, agree that we must make a commitment to start addressing this problem now.”
Washington has 125 developed state parks, covering 125,000 acres. The State Parks and Recreation Commission estimates there is a $500 million backlog of deferred maintenance on existing facilities. The estimate is the result of an agency review of existing facilities and identifying upgrades necessary to maintain public access.
Rossi’s proposal, Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5838, would authorize the State Finance Committee to issue state bonds, with the resulting revenue dedicated to addressing park maintenance and improvement measures through 2027. The bonds would be issued within the state’s existing debt limit, with proceeds deposited in a new account called the Daniel J. and Nancy Evans State Parks Preservation Account, after Washington’s 16th governor, who served three terms from 1965-77, and his wife.
“Governor Evans is an avid outdoorsman and conservationist, who during his years of service in state and federal government was dedicated to protecting our state parks,” said Rossi. “And as we all know, there is very little that we can accomplish down here without the love and support of our spouses. I can’t think of two better people to associate with a long-term infusion of support for our state-park system.”