State Legislature Passes Capital Budget, Funds Trail and Recreation Projects
The Washington legislature finally passed a capital budget, approving funding for trail and recreation projects across the state.
On January 19, the Washington legislature finally passed a capital budget, approving funding for trail and recreation projects across the state. The legislature should have passed a capital budget last year, but failed to do so because of gridlock on a policy issue.
What the capital budget funds
The capital budget goes beyond the essential day-to-day funding that the annual operating budget provides. The capital budget is when the state makes commitments to larger, longer-term budget items, such as roads, schools and other infrastructure projects, including trail projects. It's how the legislature considers how much the state will invest in new recreation projects.
Many local trails and parks also get funded through the capital budget. Land management agencies (like State Parks), local governments and nonprofit organizations leverage these funds to efficiently provide recreation opportunities for Washingtonians.
Stalled Trail projects can move forward
The impacts of the legislature not passing a capital budget last year were significant. Without a capital budget in 2017, many projects to maintain existing recreation opportunities, as well as projects to create new recreation opportunities were left unfunded. Washington State Parks was forced to cut staff, further reducing their ability to maintain infrastructure and services.
Fortunately, the legislature acted quickly this year to finally pass a capital budget, providing funding for a number of WTA’s 2017 capital budget priorities. Below were WTA’s 2017 capital budget priorities and the funding they finally received this month. This funding will be instrumental in maintaining existing recreation opportunities and creating new opportunities to accommodate the growing use of our public lands.
TEANAWAY COMMUNITY FOREST
2018 Capital Budget: $1.48 million
This funding will ensure people are able to access and enjoy the Teanaway Community Forest. The Teanaway Community Forest is the first of its kind in Washington state. It represents a new model that allows the state to partner with communities to conserve the forests they love and manage them to ensure the protection of the landscape’s environmental, economic and social benefits.
WASHINGTON WILDLIFE AND RECREATION PROGRAM (WWRP)
2018 Capital Budget: $80 million
The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program is the largest source of funding for bike and ski trails in Washington. WWRP is also a critical funding source for hiking trails and walking paths. Important capital projects that would be funded include:
- Raging River State Forest trail development near Issaquah
- McLane Creek Nature Trails renovation near Olympia
- Morning Star trails development (which is home to popular Gothic Basin) near Sultan
DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
2018 Capital Budget: $2.5 million for Sustainable Recreation and $2 million for the Natural Areas program
Department of Natural Resource lands provide substantial outdoor recreation opportunities, but investment by the state to complete vital recreational improvements and trail maintenance projects.
WASHINGTON STATE PARKS
2018 Capital Budget: $53 million
These funds would put State Parks on a pathway to restore the health of the agency and provide essential funding that would help reduce the more than $500 million deferred maintenance backlog for State Parks. Important capital projects that would be funded include: development of critical trail projects on the iconic cross-state John Wayne Trail and the Klickitat Trail.