State parks budget request under consideration

Bridgeport State Park

OLYMPIA — The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission will consider adopting 2019-21 operating and capital budget requests at its meeting next week in Vancouver.

The meeting begins at 9 a.m. Thursday, July 12, in Vancouver City Hall, 416 W. Sixth St.

State agencies must submit their 2019-21 budget requests to the state Office of Financial Management in September. The commission will consider request levels that allow state parks to build on progress made starting in 2015-17, following a recession that resulted in dramatic staffing losses and service cuts in parks and programs.

Progress since the recession has been continual since 2015, but slowed more recently. The agency is still operating at its 2008 capacity, yet park visits are on the rise, officials said.

The 2019-21 proposal under Commission consideration next week would ensure greater stability for the park system, agency officials said.

The operating request includes about $30 million more than 2017-19 funding level, for a total of about $197 million. The operating budget pays for park and program staff, equipment and utility costs, park custodial maintenance and administrative functions common to all agencies for such things as information technology, human resources, accounting, budget and communications.

Priorities of the proposal include maintaining current service levels by replacement of one-time allocations – $9 million of litter tax money and $1 million of general fund money, preventive park and trail maintenance, filling service gaps in current service levels, protecting natural resources, and youth and community engagement.

The capital budget proposal to be considered includes a request of about $111 million to deal with critical projects such as sewer and water system upgrades, campground improvements, building, road and bridge repairs and preservation of historic and cultural assets. The agency continues to make progress on a significant maintenance backlog that currently is estimated at $463 million.

A work session is scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday, July 11, at the Fort Vancouver Red Cross Building, 605 Barnes St.

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