Washington State Parks on the Chopping Block

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NOTE: This article was published in March 2009.

UPDATE June 26, 2013: Washington State Parks is now funded in part by a user fee, the Discover Pass. However, state funding is a critical piece of the pie and is currently unstable again as the Washington State Legislature must pass a state budget by July 1 to avoid park shutdowns.

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Camping in Washington this summer is likely to be a lot more crowded. And not just because your tent is the cheapest vacation spot to be found.

Due to an unprecedented $8.5 billion budget gap, the Governor of Washington state has told Washington State Parks to cut a whopping 23% of their budget. Which means some of our favorite state parks are on the chopping block.


Maybe you’ve already made camping reservations for your family this summer. Well, if your destination is Wallace Falls, Lake Wenatchee, Beacon Rock or  Fort Ebey, you will want a backup plan. Honestly. These iconic state parks, along with 25 – 35 others, are likely to close on July 1.

Can these park closures be stopped? Probably not.

State parks are where many youngsters get their first introduction to the great outdoors.  From family picnics and swimming in lakes, to camping and hiking and exploring, state parks provide close access for urban and suburban families to nature and outdoor fun. To close such a large number of parks, many of them hugely popular, seems incredibly short-sighted.  But nearly everything funded by our state is being eyed for cuts this year. And unfortunately, our state parks do not have sustainable sources of funding. So when our economy tanks, state parks go on the chopping block.

Washington Trails Association is looking into solutions to help fix the problem of funding for our state parks so that they have a dedicated and predictable source of funding to protect them from the inevitable cycles of our state and federal economies. Click here to take action.

In the meanwhile, you’ll fare better planning your camping trips to state parks that are not on this list, or making your camping reservations at national park campgrounds and forest service campgrounds.

Photo of Beacon Rock by John Bennett.

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3 Responses

  1. That list is difficult to swallow! It’s surprising that some of the most well-known and highly used parks, like Wallace Falls, Lake Wenatchee, Dash Point, and Saltwater are listed, to name a few. Will buying this license plate, which features Wallace Falls and Lake Wenatchee help?


  2. this list makes me want to cry. What can we do? Some of my favorite campgrounds are on this list. there are so many other areas that we could cut back on, why some of the most beautiful parts of our land must we sacrifice.

    1. Hi Ann, the good news is that this post was 3 years ago and campgrounds are no longer threatened with closure. The state legislature allocated the necessary funds for Parks in 2009. Then, we fought the same battle again in 2011. Now, we have a $30 “Discover Pass” to help fund parks (and it’s required for day use at all state parks and DNR lands) but that is not enough to fund them. About 100 of our state park rangers were laid off early this year. So while the WA State Parks Campgrounds are open and as popular as ever, you can expect less of a ranger presence. That means less law enforcement, fewer nature programs and less general assistance / upkeep of Parks. It’s a bummer.

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