Recreation Business Activities could be coming to local state parks

The Washington and Recreation Commission has announced three public meeting workshops, including one in Grays Harbor, relating to the establishment of Recreation Business Activity (RBA) zones in .

Recreation Business Activity zones are areas for potential development of park visitor amenities such as cabins or food service, by private business or other outside entities.

Washington State Parks says the purpose of the zones is not to privatize the park system, but rather to provide park visitor amenities that are beyond State Parks’ financial capacity, while generating lease revenue to help operate the park system.

The park sites and related public meetings are as follows:

State Parks staff recently initiated a public outreach process to get feedback on a list of candidate RBA sites around the state.

The three sites listed for meetings above are among the sites that received the most public comment. At each meeting, staff will explain the concept of RBAs and Commission approval process and will describe each candidate site, as well as hear public comment about the concept, the site proposals, park-specific development restrictions and types of new recreational facilities the public would support.

Project information and a comment form are available on the State Parks website at http://parks.state.wa.us/900/Real-Estate-Policy-Update (corrected). For questions, contact Nikki Fields, Parks Planner, at 360-902-8658 or via e-mail to planning@parks.wa.gov.

After the public comment period ends, staff will take a refined list of candidate sites to the Commission for consideration at its regular meeting May 19 in Moses Lake.

Besides the three sites listed above, the other current candidates include Fort Columbia Historical State Park and Skating Lake State Park property in Pacific County; Millersylvania State Park south of Olympia in ; Packwood State Park property in ; Pearrygin Lake State Park near Winthrop in Okanogan County; Squilchuck State Park and Twenty-Five Mile Creek State Park in Chelan County. Crystal Springs in Kittitas County was an early candidate and has been removed from the list. To be selected as candidates, sites had already gone through State Parks Classification and Management Planning, a public process that determines appropriate uses for various State Parks lands.

State Parks financing has changed dramatically since 2009, with the advent of the Great Recession. Parks’ funding base for many years relied upon approximately 75 percent of its general operations funding from taxes. Today, the park system receives about 25 percent of its operating funds from taxes; the remaining 75 percent of Parks operating funds is derived from use fees for camping, Discover Pass, moorage, overnight and accommodations and other earned revenues, including leases.

In the wake of significant budget cuts during the 2011-13 Biennium, State Parks adopted a strategy to build public and financial support for the agency. In 2013, the Commission adopted a real estate management policy, which included a process to make park lands available for private investment in facilities and services that align with the State Parks mission of providing outdoor recreation and stewardship of natural, cultural and historical resources. Through this and other efforts, State Parks continues working to move toward a healthy and sustainable park system. At the same time, the Commission continues to advocate for tax support to operate the park system, which benefits all citizens’ health, economy and quality of life.

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