2018 Legislative Wins for Washington Hikers (and everyone else)

Pony Bridge, Quinault

The Washington State legislature adjourned earlier this month. The short 60-day session included some wins for hikers and outdoor lovers. They include funding for a study on how hiking and outdoor recreation benefit local and state economies and opportunities for investment, particularly in rural communities. Also funding for various trail projects and ways to simplify the state’s recreation access fee system.

For the last two years, the Washington Trails Association and Washington Bikes have asked the legislature to fund a study focusing on the economic and health benefits of hiking, walking, and bicycling in the Evergreen State. Funding for the study was included in 2018 state budget. Special attention will be given to opportunities for investment in outdoor tourism in rural communities.

Via the Washington Trails Association:

Looking at everything from retail revenues to real estate values to specific health indicators, the information from the study will enable the state and recreation organizations to leverage the economic benefits through public-private partnerships and promote opportunities for investment in hiking, walking, and bicycling tourism in our state, particularly in rural communities. It will also enable WTA and other recreation organizations to advocate more effectively for greater investment in our trails and public lands. (Emphasis added.)

According to WTA, conversations with lawmakers resulted in $125,000 for the Recreation and Conservation Office to complete this study. Hat tips to Senator Van De Wege (24th LD), Representatives Barkis (2nd LD) and Chapman (24th LD) for championing the study. (While I don’t agree with 24th LD legislators on much of anything, they got this one right.)

Lake Cushman.

Funding for trail and recreation projects was also included in this year’s capital budget, which the legislature passed in January. This year’s capital budget includes:

  • $2.5 million for the Department of Natural Resources for Sustainable Recreation and $2 million for the Natural Areas program for vital recreational improvements and trail maintenance projects
  • $53 million for Washington State Parks to help reduce the more than $500 million deferred maintenance backlog for State Parks.
  • $80 million for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. The WWRP is the largest source of funding for bike and ski trails in Washington. WWRP is also a critical funding source for hiking trails and walking paths.

Hopefully this will help with much-needed trail maintenance at some of our favorite local hiking haunts like Lake Quinault, Lake Cushman, and pretty much most of the Olympic Peninsula.

Northwest Forest Pass? Discover Pass? Here a pass, there a pass, everywhere a pass-pass…

If you’ve ever been confused by which pass to buy for where, help is on the way. Also this session, WTA provided testimony that helped secure $75,000 needed to look at simplifying the state’s recreation access fee system. Short-term and long-term solutions to improve Washington’s current pass system are in the pipeline.

It’s about time.