Final Report on "Rec Pass" and Recommendations

Ruckelshaus Center issues final report

* Link to the Report’s Executive Summary

* Link to Full Report

*2018 Budget Proviso to fine-tune and cost out recommendations in report – included in Governor’s FY 2018 Operating Budget with $75,000. Proviso Language Here:

24. Recreational Fee Study (Phase II) In the 2017-19 budget, the State Parks and Recreation Commission completed a report on ways to improve recreational access fee systems, including opportunities to coordinate fees for federal and state lands, specific users, as well as user fee discounts and exemptions. The report includes three options to improve the recreational fee system. One-time funding is provided to hire a consultant to analyze and estimate the fiscal impacts and revenue potential of the three options developed in the report. (Recreation Access Pass Account-State)

Recreation Fees in Washington
Options & Recommendations

Final Report - December 15, 2017

The William D. Ruckelshaus Center is pleased to announce the completion of the final report Recreation Fees in Washington: Options and Recommendations, which includes recommendations by the Leadership Team to improve the recreation fees system in Washington. (See links below to view full report.)

The “Pass-Free Access Package” is the preferred recommendation, based on the voting members of the Leadership Team seeing it as the best fit with the parameters of the proviso. The “Two-Vehicle Pass System, Building on Success Package” and “One-Vehicle Pass System, Reduced Fees Package” are also recommended as potential improvements to the status quo.

Pass-Free Access Package
This is the preferred recommendation of the voting members of the Leadership Team, concluding that it is the best fit with the guiding principles/parameters of the proviso. This package replaces the Discover Pass and other state recreation passes with a source of broad-based public funding, resulting in the simplest, most consistent and equitable fee system and stable funding for land management agencies. Broad-based public funding reduces the need for exemptions and discounted passes. The funding source given the most consideration was a mandatory public land management fee at the time of vehicle registration; however, the Leadership Team did not prescribe this source and was open to other funding methods. With more Washingtonians supporting public land management, further fiscal analysis on a registration fee should begin in the $7-15 per vehicle range. Under this package, agency budgets should still include allocations from the State General Fund.

Two-Vehicle Pass System, Building on Success Package
This package is also recommended as a potential improvement to the status quo. It recognizes the successes of the Discover Pass program, while identifying opportunities to (a) simplify and bundle the many state passes that currently exist, (b) pursue the development of a pass that would work on state and federal lands in Washington, and (c) evaluate and standardize exempt/discounted passes. Under this package, individuals who recreate on public lands would continue to support recreation operations/programming through the purchase of user-based passes/fees. Fiscal analysis is required to identify consistent price point to user (starting in $30-35 range) and mechanisms to adjust price for inflation. This package recognizes that fees can support some recreation management needs, but not all agency funding needs so agencies should receive support from the State General Fund.

Single-Vehicle Pass System with Reduced-Fees
This package was also recommended as a potential improvement to the status quo. It has many similarities to the Two-Vehicle package. It identifies opportunities to simplify and bundle state passes, pursues the development of a state/federal pass, and evaluates and standardize exemptions. But instead of a household, two-vehicle pass, the Discover Pass would become a lower-priced, single-vehicle pass, potentially required in conjuction with more activities such as camping (at State Parks) or hunting (at WDFW managed lands). A lower price would enable more households to participate in the Discover Pass program and recreate on state-managed lands. To encourage participation, buying a Discover Pass at the time of vehicle registration would be the incentivized option. Individuals who chose not to buy a pass at the time of registration, and/or out-of-state visitors, could buy a higher-priced pass at a later date online or in-person. Fiscal analysis is required to determine pricing (starting at $15-20 range) and mechanisms to adjust for inflation. Under this package, agency budgets should still include allocations from the State General Fund.

If you have questions, please feel free to call or email me.

Best regards, and thank you again on behalf of the entire project team.

- Molly Stenovec, Project Manager

Final Report
To review the report and its appendices, please click on the links below.

Executive Summary

Report: Recreation Fees in WA: Options & Recommendations

Appendix A: Legislative Budget Proviso (2ESHB 2376)
Appendix B: Overview of the William D. Ruckelshaus Center
Appendix C: Participant List
Appendix D: Survey Analysis - WA State Outdoor Recreation Survey Report
Appendix E: Description of Passes in Washington
Appendix F: Overview of State and Federal Land Management Agencies
Appendix G: Recreation Fee Systems - State Case Studies
Appendix H: Holistic Look at Exemptions and Reduced-Fees in US
Appendix I: Evaluation Criteria/Tool for Exemptions
Appendix J: 2018 Draft Budget Proviso on Recreational Access

Click here to view the entire report and appendices.


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Data Minimize
February 2018: A federal government analysis of outdoor recreation's economic impact reaffirms what many conservation groups have said for decades.  Outdoor recreation is big business. For the first time ever the U.S. Department of Commerce looked specifically at the economic impact of outdoor recreation and found that it contributed $373.7 billion to the nation's Gross Domestic Product in 2016, comprising 2 percent of the GDP.  See Report


A state study completed by the Recreation and Conservation Office in January 2015, finds that people in Washington spend nearly $22 billion each year hiking, skiing, boating, golfing, and in other outdoor pursuits.  See Study


January 2014: Outdoor recreation is an economic powerhouse in the United States, each year generating $646 billion in customer spending and 6.1 million direct jobs.  See Study

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