Last night (July 20, 2017) , the Legislature adjourned its third special session without passing a Capital Construction Budget, putting all funding for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) on hold until the Legislature is able to resolve its differences on unrelated matters. Although the House announced an agreement on the Capital Budget with the Senate on June 30, Senate Republicans were unwilling to vote on the budget until their demands on the Hirst water rights decision are met.
Earlier this week, the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition—WWRP’s chief advocate—was bolstered by the House’s decision to follow the Senate’s lead in funding WWRP at a healthy $80 million and restoring the integrity of the program. However, yesterday’s failure to pass a Capital Budget puts the future of all new WWRP projects in limbo.
“The legislature’s inability to pass a budget is disappointing to both the Coalition and grant applicants from all corners of the state who worked tirelessly to make these projects a reality for their communities,” said Andrea McNamara Doyle, Executive Director of the Coalition. “These applicants rely on WWRP funding and now face a very uncertain future that jeopardizes their considerable efforts to date.”
Without WWRP funding, some projects will not be able to move forward, some will need to seek alternative funding, and many will waste valuable time and effort as they wait.
Arlington’s Haller Park, once filled with drug use and homelessness, is set to receive WWRP funds to complete the construction of a community spray park. This new aquatic facility would provide a safe alternative to swimming in the unpredictable Stillaguamish River, and has received great support from the local community and the Stillaguamish Tribe. Another Local Parks construction project of note is Spokane’s Bidwell Park Development, sponsored by the Spokane County Parks and Recreation Department. This project would provide a home for local sports teams by expanding green space, paving trails, landscaping, and building a multi-use sports field as well as a restroom, playground, picnic shelter, and additional parking.
In Okanogan County, the Town of Twisp applied for WWRP funds to begin renovating two overlapping sports fields in the Twisp Sports Complex. Renovating and moving the fields will allow multiple games to be played simultaneously, making a big difference for local youth sports teams.
Other Local Parks development projects affected include:
· South Whidbey Campground (South Whidbey Parks and Recreation Department, Island County)
· Hale Park Construction Phase 2 (City of Wenatchee, Chelan County)
· Wilkeson’s Roosevelt Park & Edgewood Community Park (Town of Wilkeson and City of Edgewood, Pierce County)
· Johnson Ballfields Renovation (Everett Parks and Recreation Department, Snohomish County)
· Southeast Youth Sports Complex (Spokane City Parks and Recreation Department, Spokane County)
Projects across the rest of WWRP’s twelve categories will be impacted as well, including Farmland Preservation projects in Klickitat County like Trout Lake Valley, Schuster Hereford Ranch, and Lazy Cross Ranch, and trails projects like Ferry County Rail Trail (Ferry County), Whitehorse Trail Phase 2, and North Creek Regional Trail (both in Snohomish County).
Without Capital Budget funding, up to one thousand state jobs—including about a third of the Recreation and Conservation Office’s staff—may be lost, further impairing future WWRP projects from being considered for the next round of grant funding.
The future is unclear. Some legislators have committed to continue negotiating on the Hirst decision, but each day that the impasse lasts creates more challenges for WWRP projects awaiting funding.
If the Capital Budget is not passed until 2018, all WWRP projects will be delayed by at least a year and many project opportunities may be lost entirely.
The Coalition urges the Legislature to come to a bipartisan agreement on the Capital Budget without delay.