Forgoing their valentines, about 25 lovers of Lake Sammamish State Park showed up at the King County Library System headquarters on Feb. 14 to discuss forming a non-profit Lake Sammamish State Park friends group and advocate for the ailing park.
“State Parks is in deep doo-doo,” said Peter Herzog, partnerships and planning program manager at Washington State Parks.
State funding for parks has decreased since 2003 from $60 million to $13 million in 2011. Herzog doesn’t expect any general fund money for state parks in this year’s state budget.
In addition, the Discover Pass, which provides access to state parks for $30 a year or $10 for a daily permit, has only brought in half the expected revenue. The program was projected to bring in $67 million between 2011 and 2013. As of June 2012, it had earned about $15.7 million. Lake Sammamish State Park hasn’t had any major improvements since the ‘70s.
Lake Sammamish State Park manager Rich Benson said he’s hopeful a new boat launch, which is shaping up nicely, will be completed for the busy summer season. However, it took 15 years to get it done.
And, Herzog added, $1.8 million in capital projects are in the works for this summer including beach restoration at Sunset Beach, which will be funded in part by the Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account and state capital funds, at a cost of $1 million. The additional $1.7 in capital projects will be funded from ALEA and Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program grants.
But it’s not enough.
John Floberg, executive director of the State Parks Foundation, said the statewide non-profit support group has mostly funded projects to enhance parks. But the need, he added, is there to operate on a much larger scale.
A good example is the “Friends” group formed to serve Bridle Trails State Park, 482 acres sandwiched between Kirkland and Bellevue. Ken Hite, president of the Bridle Trails Park Foundation, which formed in 2002, said it now pays 50 percent of the operating cost of the park.
Audience suggestions for improvements included Issaquah city council member Eileen Barber advocating educational youth activities. Another citizen proposed promoting historical and cultural elements into the park, including the Snoqualmie Tribe which has immense history in the area. One woman advocated for pet control, while another thought an off-leash park for dogs would be appropriate.
Former city council member Dave Kappler would like to see lifeguards brought back, and more emphasis on wind powered craft like sailboats.
Incorporating some commercial development was even suggested, including a high-end lakeside restaurant, something Lake Sammamish lacks.
In the end, five people stepped up to be the interim leaders of this new “Friends” group: Dave Kappler, Connie Marsh, Debbie Bertow, Chris Kovac and Jim Berry. The fledgling group did not set a date yet for its next meeting.