WRPA's Legislative Priorities

Washington Recreation & Park Association – 2023 Legislative Agenda

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Top Priorities

Robust funding for Capital Budget programs that invest in the outdoor recreation sector

WRPA will place a high priority on achieving the highest possible funding levels for the Washington Wildlife & Recreation Program (WWRP), the Youth Athletic Facilities program (YAF), the Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account (ALEA), and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). WRPA is highly supportive of a $156 million request for WWRP put forth by the Washington Wildlife & Recreation Coalition (WWRC), as well as funding levels proposed by the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board for WWRP ($135 million), YAF ($10.9 million), LWCF ($20 million), and ALEA ($5.7 million).

Funding to help local parks agencies address severe maintenance backlogs exacerbated by COVID-19

On the heels of a 2022 Session that saw the Legislature allocate $5 million apiece in M&O backlog removal funding to Washington State Parks, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, WRPA asks legislators to work with local parks leaders on a $5 million allocation for backlog catchup at the local level. WRPA recently conducted a survey of local parks maintenance needs that showed a statewide backlog of approximately $725 million. WRPA will be working with State Rep. Cindy Ryu, the Chair of the House Community and Economic Development Committee, to put this $5 million request forward. Funds would be distributed through the Recreation & Conservation Office (RCO).

Expanding the Outdoor Learning Grant Program

WRPA will work with the Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction (OSPI) and others to urge the Legislature, as part of the 2023-25 Operating Budget, to increase funding for OSPI and RCO. As it seeks additional Outdoor Learning Grant money and flexibility, WRPA also wants to ensure that funding for the “No Child Left Inside” program is not compromised and remains at high levels.
Increasing limits on contracting with non-profit organizations
WRPA urges an increase from the current $25,000 limit in RCW 35.21.278, which has not been adjusted since 1988. The statute enables cities, counties, school districts, and parks agencies to contract with a chamber, service organization, or community organization for help with things such as drawing design plans, making an improvement to a park or playground or public square, installing artwork, or performing maintenance services. The limit of $25,000 or a $2-per-resident formula, is a limit for all contracts in a given year, no matter how many. WRPA believes with the passage of 31 years and decades of inflation, it makes sense to change the limit to $75,000. Increasing this limit would be particularly helpful to smaller parks agencies and districts to help them operate and maintain outdoor spaces in conjunction with community partners.

Strongly Support

“Parks Rx”

WRPA will partner with Metro Parks Tacoma in strongly supporting legislation to establish in statute, and/or fund in the 2023-25 Operating Budget, a minimum of three “Parks Rx” pilot projects in Washington.

One-time Stadium & Exhibition Center Account Funding

WRPA will work closely with the Recreation & Conservation Office, the Governor’s Office, and the Office of Financial Management on a plan that deploys this one-time allocation of $42 million in a way that provides increased opportunities for youth, enhances equitable access to local parks facilities, and adds resources in everything from fields to maintenance. WRPA also wants to watch closely to ensure this funding is not redirected for other uses. Olympia Parks Director Paul Simmons and Yakima Parks Director Ken Wilkinson are representing WRPA on the Advisory Committee considering the best ways to distribute these funds.

Overhauling 1 percent property tax limit

WRPA will partner with other local government organizations and associations in strongly supporting a badly-needed modernizing of the 1 percent property tax limit, so that it can be adjusted for things such as growth and inflation.

Technical change to Derelict Vessel Removal Program statute

WRPA is poised to support legislation being contemplated to lessen the number of days a public entity is required to hold a derelict vessel that has been taken to its jurisdiction by a public or private property owner before turning it in to the Department of Natural Resources.  Current law requires a 30-day public agency hold and a Pierce County lawmaker plans legislation to reduce that number.

Zero-Emission Landscaping Equipment

WRPA is prepared to strongly support an incentive-based approach to bringing zero-emission power landscaping equipment to the market in a way that can be phased in by local governments using such equipment.

Track/Monitor

Affordable Housing/Homelessness

WRPA will closely track initiatives around affordable housing/homelessness funding and resources and will be poised to support those that intersect with the development and protection of safe, clean, public parks.

"Active Transportation” components of ‘Move Ahead Washington

WRPA will be closely tracking initial priority-setting and funding/phasing of “active transportation” components of the 2022-enacted Move Ahead Washington package. WRPA wants to ensure that local parks officials are part of the discussion on how these funds are deployed at the local level.

Potential legislation to integrate a climate change element into the Growth Management Act (GMA):

If legislation is again put forth to formally integrate climate change elements into the Growth Management Act (GMA), WRPA will look to insert similar amending language as was in HB 1099 in the 2021-22 Sessions. That language incorporates active trails and trail facilities into the transportation element definitions.

Pending Studies

WRPA will closely track next steps for a series of pending studies the RCO has been tasked with – including development of a Trails Data-Base, a review of Equity policies, a new child care licensing pilot, and direction on enhancing collaboration between schools and local parks in the use of field and facilities. 

Participation in and Tracking of Ongoing Studies

While WRPA does not expect to see 2022 legislative action on the following studies and Task Forces, it will actively participate in them to help shape and inform proposals likely to be brought before the 2023 Legislature. They include:

  • RCO work with multiple stakeholders and agencies on the development of a Statewide Multi-Modal Trails Database. Roxanne Miles of Pierce County Parks, who serves as WRPA’s Legislative Chair, represents WRPA’s interests on this one.

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    Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) “Physical Activity” Task Force – looking at equitable use of Local Parks and K-12 fields and examining ways to expand Joint Use Agreements. Sarah Margeson of King County Parks and Julie Parascondola of Kent Parks represent WRPA on the Task Force.
  • Department of Health “Parks Rx” Task Force Working to Establish Three Health and Wellness Pilot Projects That Would Utilize Local Parks and Parks Facilities as a Gateway to Healthy Activities. Hunter George of Metro Parks Tacoma and Carrie Hoiness of Moses Lake represent WRPA on the Task Force.
  • Governor’s Office/State Parks/African-American Affairs Commission Study of Ways to Make Access to the Outdoors More Equitable and Enhance Outdoor Experience for Black Washingtonians. Paris Yates of Seattle represents WRPA and local parks interests within the study group.
  • Department of Children, Youth, and Families study of the feasibility of a child care multi-sites licensing pilot. Metro Parks Tacoma is actively engaged in this study.
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WRPA is hard at work advocating for our industry. Visit the WRPA Blog to read more about our latest efforts and catch up on the latest Washington State legislative news. If you have something you think should be shared with the Legislative Committee or on the Blog, please email the WRPA Office at [email protected].

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