The parks need a full day to completely shut down, so if a new budget isn’t signed by Gov. Jay Inslee in time, many campers could be locked out. The state parks system would lose about 1.4 million visitors in about a week.
If state legislators fail to reach a budget deal by Friday, the state government will shut down and gates to state parks will shutter just in time for the Independence Day holiday — the busiest time of year for the parks.
And even though Gov. Jay Inslee announced a tentative 2017-19 state operating budget, the state parks system is proceeding as if the government will shut down.
“There is no budget enacted until the budget is signed,” said Virginia Painter, a spokeswoman for Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. “We’re marching down the contingency shutdown path.”
If the closure takes effect, no one would be able to drive into state parks. Nothing would prevent people from entering on foot, but there would not be electricity, water, restroom facilities or garbage service, according to a Washington State Parks notice on effects of the shutdown. No park staff, or volunteers, would be allowed in the parks.
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Painter said shutting down the parks system takes time.
“You don’t just flip the switch and close things. A park is like a little city. There’s all that infrastructure you need to check out, monitor, clean. We can’t do that last minute.”
The parks system has managed to condense the closing process to a single day, so Painter said it will need some indication the governor will sign the budget by Friday morning.
“We’re still optimistic and hopeful something might happen,” Painter said.
If it doesn’t, the shutdown could let down about 1.4 million people expected to visit through the first week of July, according to figure the parks office provided to the state Office of Financial Management for contingency planning.
Nearly 11,000 people have already made camping or other overnight reservations during that week.
Closures would be “curtailing or interrupting plans of families, reunions, wedding parties, youth groups and youth and summer education camps,” according to a contingency planning document from the management office.
Painter said the agency has notified anyone with a reservation the parks might close down.
“We encouraged people to leave their reservations in place,” Painter said. “If there was a shutdown, we could provide full refunds.”
The parks would lose “at least $2 million” in fees if they’re not operating from June 30 to July 7.
“Vandalism to buildings and resources and misuse of park facilities, including heritage features, could be expected in many locations if park staff are not there to provide protection and enforcement,” according to contingency-planning document.
If the parks do shut down, it would take a day or two to reopen.
Painter said state agencies have spent lots of time planning for a shutdown.
“Of course it’s frustrating. Nobody wants it to happen. It’s frustrating, but government plans. We hope for the best and plan for the worst,” she said.