State Parks Forced To Get Creative, Wired To Survive

Jun 15, 2012

A wi-fi connection and smart phone bar codes could be coming to a state park near you. Those are just two of the ideas under consideration as Washington State Parks tries to recruit a new generation of visitors. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins explains.

It’s a new era at Washington State Parks. The legislature last year created a $30 annual Discover Pass to replace state funding. But sales have been sluggish. So now the State Parks system is set to ramp up its marketing effort.

Video: “So let’s discover what’s out there. You could set out on a rock climbing adventure....”

This new promotional video aimed at young professionals is about to debut on-line. Don Hoch directs Washington State Parks. He says as his agency heads into its centennial year, the old model of the legislature funding the parks has ended.

Hoch: “For 99 years we’ve been getting a check. Well now people are going to have to choose us. So we have to be more entrepreneurial. We have to look at how to we attract people to continue to parks.”

Hoch says that means bringing technology to parks – like Internet connections and perhaps even explanations of park features that you would call up on your smart phone. But he draws the line at billboards, privatization and timber operations at state parks. Declining state support is a national trend. In Oregon, the parks system has been self-funded since 1999. Next year, Idaho State Parks rolls out its new Passport program to replace vanishing state dollars.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio