More than 20 trail systems and campgrounds operated statewide by the state Department of Natural Resources would close in March under Gov. Chris Gregoire's supplemental budget.
Included on the hit list are two popular recreation areas in South Sound — the McLane Creek Nature Trail in Capitol Forest and the Mima Mounds Interpretive Center near Littlerock. An estimated 15,000 people visit the sites each year.
Also on the chopping block are popular DNR hiking trails in King County, including the Mount Si and Little Si trailheads, which receive combined visits from more than 500,000 people per year, estimates show.
Outdoor recreation groups will lobby the 2010 Legislature when it convenes today in Olympia to find the $276,000 in general fund money necessary to keep the trails and recreation areas open.
"Losing public access to these areas for even a season would be a disaster," said Jonathan Guzzo, advocacy director for the Washington Trails Association. "These are important family outdoor getaways close to urban areas."
In tough economic times such as these, people can't afford to travel far for recreation, making the sites even more attractive and critical, he said.
"Once the public sees this list of closures, they'll demand action from their legislators," predicted state Sen. Ken Jacobsen, D-Seattle, the chairman of the Senate’s Natural Resources, Oceans and Recreation Committee.
The DNR's recreation program, already feeling the effects of a 50 percent budget cut last year, will run out of general-fund money in late March, said Mark Mauren, a DNR assistant division manager assigned to recreation.
General-fund money pays for things such as trail maintenance; replacing vandalized and worn-out signs, picnic tables and corrals; pumping outhouses; and training volunteers.
In the short term, DNR would need an infusion of general-fund money to keep the trails and camps open, Mauren said.
In the long run, DNR wants to turn to user fees to help finance its recreation programs. User fees have the support of a diverse base of user groups who recently completed their work as the Sustainable Recreation Work Group, which was formed by the 2008 state Legislature to make recommendations for future recreation on DNR-managed land.
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