Budget Cuts Taking Toll on Washington Parks - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Budget Cuts Taking Toll on Washington Parks

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PASCO, Wash. - Budget cuts continue to take a toll on Washington's park systems. There is no question there are fewer dollars going around the state but the recreational agencies are learning to do more with less.

State parks have been hit hard in the last few years and federal funding for the Corps of Engineers is getting harder to come by.

"We had a big cut this last year. Again. I don't know what it is, the economy in general, maybe people aren't getting out to our parks quite as much as we'd like them to," said Heather Humphries with the Corps.

The local Corps parks include Hood, Charbonneau and Fish Hook Parks. On the north shore, there is Windust and Levey Parks. Those two were closed last summer. Despite more cuts, Windust Park is open this year while Levey Park is only open on the weekends for boat ramp use. The docks are gone but that is for repairs.

"We're always on top of maintenance, even with budget cuts we have to make sure everything is in tip top shop. We're doing the best we can," Humphries said.

The closest state park to the Tri-Cities is Pasco's Sacajawea State Park. Interpretive Center Specialist Rebecca Hughes said it's quieter there than years past.

"We're getting good visitation. You can see people milling around here today, it's a Friday, of course. During the week it's usually pretty quiet. Typically, but the weekend have been getting good attendance," Hughes said.

Up until now Sacajawea State Park has been fairly stable. However, the state parks department asked the legislature for $27-milllion for operational needs but found out this week they will only receive $20-million.

"So, we're a little shy, obviously, and they are not sure what the impacts will be at this point," Hughes said.

"The parks we run are a little bit different from the way state parks are run. We're allocated a federal budget and they determine what we need based on visitation so one thing we do is encourage visitors to actually use the parks and use them responsibly," Humphries said.

The same goes for the state parks. The Discover Pass has not been as popular as the state had hoped. As funding becomes harder to lock down, rangers are hoping more people will support their local parks.

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