What do Ohio, Tennessee & British Columbia Have in Common?

The following headline may provide a clue: As Washington State prepares to charge admission to all state parks, British Columbia is launching free admission to its provincial parks.

BC Parks

Mount Robson Provincial Park, British Columbia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

B.C. Premier Christy Clark recently announced that parking will now be free in all provincial parks to encourage families to take advantage of the system.

With 13.6 per cent of the province set aside as parkland and protected areas, B.C. has the second largest park system in Canada, second only to the national park system. Special events will be held in parks across the province all year, as BC Parks honors 100 years of conservation and recreation.

It started with Strathcona Provincial Park in 1911 and now BC Parks has grown to be one of the largest park systems in the world.

“The parking meters are coming out and parking will be free, effective immediately, so that British Columbia’s parks are even more welcoming for families,” said Clark, as she launched BC Parks centennial celebrations.

“Our parks not only contribute to a healthy lifestyle and protect our environment, they are important to our economy. More park visitors mean more tourism dollars and more jobs for rural British Columbians and we want to eliminate any barriers to using the parks.”
Clark said parking fees earned about $1 million annually, “although the ‘net’ was a lot lower than that.”

Mohican State Park, Ohio. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

She also announced a $500,000 Community Legacy Program to support communities while they celebrate the provincial park system centennial. The funding will be used to improve parks across the province. Community groups can apply for up to $20,000 for projects such as trail enhancements, improvements that support recreational activities, or conservation of a park’s ecology or cultural history. These projects will provide a lasting commemoration of B.C. Parks 100.

“BC Parks are a part of who we are,” said Environment Minister Terry Lake. “They help define us as British Columbians, and show that we care deeply about our environment and our planet. The new legacy fund looks to the future and the improvements we can continue to make, and it looks to the past 100 years by recognizing that community groups have played a key role in making the parks and protected areas system what it is today.”

Lake says while we celebrate B.C. Parks 100, park visitors will be the ones getting the birthday gifts through a number of promotions throughout the year.

Washington State Parks

As part of a plan to keep Washington’s state parks operating amid a $5.3 billion state budget deficit, Premier Clark’s counterpart, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed legislation yesterday (May 12) to create a $30 vehicle pass for state parks and other state recreation lands. The pass goes on sale in mid-June.

“It is essential that we keep our recreation areas open to the public,” Gregoire said in a statement. “I applaud the Legislature for coming together with a solution that allows us to help keep our state recreation lands open and accessible during the worst budget crisis in the state’s history.” House Bill 5622 requires drivers who visit state parks and other state lands to either purchase a $10 day-use permit or purchase a $30 annual Discover Pass. The proposal is designed to make the parks system more self-sustaining and it could save state budget writers about $50 million.

Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The single day permit or the annual pass will admit the holder to recreation lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the State Parks and Recreation Commission.

House Bill 5622 was passed by the House on a vote of 55-42 and by the Senate on a vote of 33-14.

For the state Department of Natural Resources, creating the pass is crucial to keeping its recreation areas open. None of the budgets proposed by the governor, the House, or the Senate included money to maintain those areas.

It’s still unclear whether enough people will buy the passes or pay the day-use fee to keep the 119 developed state parks open. The state estimates that the annual pass and permit will generate about $53.9 million per biennium for state parks, which is still about $10 million short of what the state park system projects it will need.

No passes or permits are required when camping at a state park or when parked in a designated 30-minute short term parking area.

The legislation allows the state parks department to open up parks for use without a day-use permit for up to 12 days per year.

The Discover Pass goes into effect July 1.

To be continued…

Worth Pondering…
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.

Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.

The winds will flow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

—John Muir

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