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Day-use park fees approved

"You're going to have to pay to park at the park. This month the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission cleared the way for a day-use parking fee to be charged at state parks in Washington. The $2 to $7 fee will be used to improve and maintain park facilities. Until now, only overnight campers were charged a fee for park use.Details about how much, when and where the fees will be charged are being worked out by state park staff members who will present a plan and recommendations to the commission in March. It's likely that all five of Whidbey's state parks - Deception Pass, Joseph Whidbey, Fort Ebey, Fort Casey and South Whidbey - will be included in the fee plan.Deception Pass State Park Manager Bill Overby said people who use the park only during the day make up 90 percent of park visitors. Even so, overnight campers, who make up the remaining 10 percent, are the only ones currently paying a use fee.Overby said he has visited many parks outside of Washington where some sort of day-use or parking fee is charged. In fact, Washington state is the only mainland state west of the Mississippi that does not charge such fees. At the same time, however, Washington has developed a reputation for free use of it's state parks. It's a reputation that has made the introduction of fees an unpopular proposition in the past.But after looking at years of legislative cuts to the parks' budgets, officials say day-use fees may be the only way to start chipping away at an estimated $40 million backlog of needed park maintenance and upgrades. Park officials say the approximately 42 million people who visit the state's 125 parks each year generate a fair amount of wear and tear on park grounds, facilities and trails.Overby said it's still unclear how each park will go about collecting, enforcing and auditing the new fees and he isn't sure whether it will be applied at all park entrances or just at main gates. There is also the possibility that it may not be charged every day, he said.They haven't told us a whole lot yet, he said.The new fee should be in place starting in January of 2002 "

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