2018 Legislative Victories: State Invests in Trails and Public Lands
The state legislature wrapped-up the 2018 session on March 8, and there's plenty for hikers and trail advocates to celebrate.
The state legislature wrapped-up the 2018 session on March 8, and there's plenty for hikers and trail advocates to celebrate. Despite only lasting two months, the short session was a busy one, with a record number of bills introduced.
Captial budget unlocks Trail funding
This was a successful year for state trails and recreation. The legislature finally passed the capital budget in January, freeing up trail project funding. Then, both of WTA’s legislative priorities were included in the state operating budget signed by the Governor! Passing these two priorities may change how we think about and enjoy trails in Washington.
Health and Economic Benefits of Hiking & Biking
As hikers, we know from personal experience that getting out on trail and experiencing nature is good for our health. And experience also tells us that recreation tourism is good for our local and state economies.
When people head out to trails they travel through, and stop at, local communities. Hikers and other recreationists fill up their cars at local gas stations, stay overnight at local hotels, grab a meal at the local restaurant, and stock up on supplies and gear. Everything we do to prepare for and enjoy our adventures help fuel our communities.
For the last two years, Washington Trails Association and our partner, Washington Bikes, have been asking the legislature to fund a study to better understand the economic and health benefits of hiking, walking, and bicycling in Washington.
This year, WTA and Washington Bikes talked with lawmakers and advocated that funding for this study be included in the state budget.
Those conversations convinced decision-makers, and the legislature has approved $125,000 for the Recreation and Conservation Office to compete this study. WTA applauds the legislature's decision to include funding for the study and we give our thanks and appreciation to Senator Van De Wege (24th Legislative District, Sequim), Representatives Barkis (2nd Legislative District, Olympia) and Chapman (24th Legislative District, Port Angeles) for championing the study.
Looking at everything from the number of people in the state who hike, bike, and walk annually, and the economic contributions they make, as well as the effects on the environment and physical and mental health, 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.
Alternatives to Washington’s Recreation Pass System
Have you ever driven to a trailhead only to realize that you don’t have the correct recreation access pass, such as the Northwest Forest Pass or Discover Pass, in your glove box? Have you dreamed of a simpler or more equitable system?
A more equitable and less complex recreation access fee system is something that WTA has long supported. Throughout 2017 a comprehensive group of recreation stakeholders, including WTA, met and developed recommendations for short-term and long-term actions to improve our current pass system.
The possible long-term changes identified need further analysis to determine the cost and revenue potentials for each option. So this year WTA asked state lawmakers to provide $75,000 to complete this analysis. WTA met with lawmakers and provided testimony in committee to support including this funding in the budget. WTA is excited that lawmakers have acknowledged the importance of looking at our pass system and trying find a simpler, more equitable solution.
To help be part of the movement speaking up for trails and making victories like this possible, join the Trail Action Network.