It's been another tough week in the news. From now on you will be required to have a permit to be on Washington state land for any recreational activity.
To be or not to be on state land is not a choice for many of us. The state owns waterways, tidelands, rivers, lakes and vast areas of hinterland all over the Olympic Peninsula.
Chances are if you drive through the woods and get out of your car you will be on state land. Once out of your car you are technically engaged in a recreational activity, which is defined by the State as “if it isn't commercial, it's recreational.”
Charging the public to get on public land is not a new idea on the Olympic Peninsula. At first Olympic National Park charged an entrance fee.
Later the U.S. Forest Service came up with their own permit for their land. Then the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service started charging money to go on the Dungeness Spit.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife invented a “Stewardship Access Pass” to park at their boat ramps.
Now with the state being broke and going deeper in the hole every day it only makes sense that we would be expected to pay to go on State land.
The new “Discover Pass” will cost you between $10 and $11.50 a day and $30 and $35 per year depending on where you buy it and a $99 fine if you don't. The money from the sale of these permits and the fines they will incur is hoped to make up for a $10 million dollar budget cut in our Washington State Park system and a million dollar shortfall at the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
You are required to display your Discover Pass on your rear view mirror (along with your Stewardship Access Pass and other appropriate permits if you should wander into Federal Jurisdictions) so that it can be recorded by law enforcement agencies.
Passholders should use an appropriate degree of caution once you get all required the permits hanging from your rear view mirror. If all these passes obstruct your view out the windshield, you can get a ticket for that too.
Many of the Discover Pass purchasers are expected to be out-of-state tourists who for the first time will have an opportunity to share the burden of supporting the state right along with the residents. Tourists come here with money and it doesn't matter much how we get it out of them.
What better way to say “Welcome to Washington!” to our many visitors than to write them a ticket by which to remember their visit to Washington.
Besides stimulating the tourist industry by writing the tourists tickets, the Discover Pass will provide additional opportunity for the state to gather information on our visitors. That will produce valuable new statistics and a database that will allow the state to monitor citizens more closely.
Unfortunately all these state passes may not go far enough to keep our state solvent. What we need is a new permit for those who have not yet had the opportunity to participate in the permit process.
By requiring a permit to walk on the sidewalk the state could close a vast loophole for people without permits. People walking on the sidewalk would be required to display the permit on their sleeves. The permit could be small, colorful and shaped like a star. Every citizen should have one, to share the burden.
We'll thank ourselves later if we do the right thing now.