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Washington State has many wonderful parks. But unless you can afford to pay for an annual Discovery Pass, you cannot visit them even though they are owned by taxpayers. That is very, very wrong.
When I first moved to Washington in 2000, state parks were free to visit. Several years later, the State closed them to anyone who could not pay. Somehow, despite a growing economy, a huge influx of people moving to the State and a higher tax base, all of a sudden we could not afford our own parks.
I am well aware of the budget challenges. But that is no excuse for closing off parks purchased with taxpayer funds. Closing parks to those unable to pay disproportionately affects poorer families and communities of color — who often do not have adequate access to outdoor parks.
I realize there are city and county parks. But state parks are often larger and have a much more profound impact on people. Our children cannot grow up with an appreciation for nature if they are not able to experience it for themselves.
It may not be our paramount duty to fund parks like it is for education. But I believe it is our responsibility to do so.