Friday, May 15, 2015

Blog Post #24

How much is a park worth?

Washington is home to Starbucks, Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, R.E.I. and huge crops of apples, wheat, trees and oysters. To say we are lucky would be an understatement. At the smaller end of the economic spectrum is Sage, making some of the best fly rods and Werner making the best kayak paddles. What's the point?

Last year Governor Jay Inslee included me on a panel charged with looking at the value of recreation to the people of Washington. State Parks has one hundred forty employees fewer than ten years ago. What's the deal? Are there fewer people? Are there fewer people with their R.V.s, bikes, tents, climbing gear skis and all the other stuff needed to enjoy the outdoors? Go out and take a look.

It turns out the economic value of outdoor recreation in Washington is huge. Somewhere around 25 billion dollars per year. That's sales of recreation stuff, the cost of going fishing or camping or to your softball game or whatever you're are up to. Buying a boat? It's in there too.

It's Really Big! Bigger than aircraft manufacturing and software and coffee. It's guys flying radio controlled airplanes and girls riding jumping horses at the Washington State Horse Park. Really, I found out that the sales tax collections from just the trips taken to state parks exceeds the meager budget approved by the legislature. We are already paying 70% of the costs of running the parks through the sales of the Discover Pass. That's better than any other state. If this were Boeing, everyone would jump to the tune and straighten this out. We'd give another tax break.

Call Someone! Get on the phone or the Internet and let your legislator know you want the parks kept open, the toilets cleaned and the criminals kept out. These are some of the few things we all get to enjoy from the spending of our taxes. Don't let the penny-pinching-spoil-sports scrimp you out of your parks and do the economy and the unemployed a favor by recognizing the real value of these parks.

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