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Pay and park at Deception Pass?

There’s a good chance come January that motorists using Deception Pass State Park will have to pay a $5 parking fee, a result of state cuts to park funding earlier this year.

In a unanimous vote Thursday, state parks commissioners voted to charge a $7 a day or a $70 annual parking fee for visitors to state parks, though which parks will be included on the list likely won’t be determined until December, said parks media contact Thuy Luu-Beams.

“At this time, we have a list approved by the commission,” Luu-Beams said Friday, referring to an earlier list first approved in June 2001. “We are currently still using the same list of parks, but that list will be modified.”

Deception Pass Park was included on that original list approved by the parks commission. However, Luu-Beams added, that is no indication of whether a fee will be charged for parking.

Of the 120 parks statewide, at least 72 are currently on the list, with more expected to be added in the coming months. The fee structure will take effect Jan. 1, 2003, unless overturned by the state legislature in its early 2003 session.

Luu-Beams said that while the commission approved a $7 a day/$70 annual parking fee, that amount will be discounted initially. Starting next year through 2005, customers will only be charged $5 (and $50 for an annual pass) for parking, in order that the commission can determine exactly how the fee revenues will be utilized.

The higher fee schedule will go into state-wide effect Jan. 1, 2006, though the parks commission has latitude on the amount to be charged by specific parks. It could be that less used parks will charge lower fees, while those with high visitor traffic — such as Deception Pass — will require the maximum amount.

Parks officials say part of the reason for the fee schedule is that still more cuts are expected, as the state attempts to overcome a $1.8 billion revenue shortfall over the next two years.

Fees are expected to net the parks system about $3 million a year.

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