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Washington parks face emergency budget cuts

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington’s state park system is facing an emergency funding crisis. The Parks Commission will meet Tuesday to vote on a plan to immediately cut $11 million from the budget.

The crisis comes as sales of the new Discover Pass lag.

Projected revenues are off $2 million since July when the parks system moved to an entry fee as its main source of funding.

Agency spokeswoman Sandy Mealing says at this point there’s no plan to shutter any of Washington’s more than 100 state parks.

“An absolute last resort," she says. "And the Commission isn’t even discussing closing parks because we’ve got to get the Discover Pass in front of people so that they understand that this is a vital funding source for their parks system now and closing parks is counterproductive to doing that.”

However, some parks may go unstaffed a couple of days at week. Notices are going out to employees who face the possibility of getting laid-off or being reduced from full-time to seasonal employment.

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Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.