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Pay stations coming to State Parks
OLYMPIA - With a budget shortfall as a result of reduced support from the state's general fund, Washington State Parks has had to cut back on maintenance and staff hours.

But so far, no parks have been forced to close. Park officials are focusing on bringing in more revenue to fill the gap by promoting the Discover Pass program.

The pass, which is a user fee for vehicle entry into Washington public lands such as state parks and natural resource lands, brought in an average of $13 million a year during its first two years. But during the fiscal year ending in June 2013, the pass program brought in $16.8 million - an increase of about 29 percent. 

The pass program was implemented in 2011 after state lawmakers slashed the budget for state parks. But even though the program has fallen short of the $27 million a year the state originally thought it would bring in, pass sales have become a critical element of the state parks budget.

"It is the thing that helped keep the parks open," said Washington State Parks spokeswoman Virginia Painter.

If the trend continues, pass revenue in its fourth year should be even stronger. But the parks system has a long way to go to make up for the more than 50 percent in cuts to its budget proportion from the general fund starting when the economy faltered in 2008. 

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