There are few things these days that allow families to get out of the house and spend time together in a natural environment that’s both pleasurable for everyone, safe and educational. State parks serve all those purposes and now, buying a pass has just been made easier courtesy of credit card swipe machines.
Washington State parks introduced the machines as an option for those wanting to buy Discover Passes. The machines are located in the parking lots of ten parks and while the pilot program has been in place for just two months, the feedback has been incredible. Indeed, it’s been a successful effort that might can finally offset the costs of maintaining these beautiful parks. Park officials in not only Washington, but in nearly every state, often feel as though their budgets are the first ones to get cut in difficult financial times. Indeed, Washington parks took huge hits in recent years but now, with more people finding it easier to purchases passes, everyone’s pleased with the results of the commitment of not only park visitors, but employees and state lawmakers, as well.
The machines are solar powered and quite popular, too. Before, when someone wanted to visit, they had the option of dropping cash into any of the many lock boxes located in the parking lots and other strategic areas or they could also go into the park office, which had no guarantees that anyone would be there since budget cuts mean employees are wearing many hats. Often, an office is empty when employees are out and about doing something within the parks. Currently, the credit card machines are in ten of Washington’s park with three of them located on Whidbey Island. Park officials are saying the program has been a great success.
The machines have been in place since earlier this summer and twelve machines were placed at ten of the most populated parks in the state. It’s convenient, easy and safe, say park officials. As of now, park visitors can only buy the day passes, which are $10. Now that the program has proven successful, state officials are hoping they can expand the number of machines as well as the various pass specifications, such as an annual pass for $30. Plans are also in place to set up the option of donating to the state parks, which would keep the parks up and going.
Each credit card machine cost the state $5,700 and then an additional one time fee of $300 for each machine to be installed. In August, due to the success of the program, state lawmakers changed the dynamics that now allow one Discover Pass to be used for two vehicles, provided they’re all in the same party.
While the program has been quite successful, there are other ways the passes can be purchased, including the option of buying them online as well as from any of the recreational license vendors who sell hunting and fishing licenses. Further, visitors can also buy the passes via phone (which arrive via traditional mail delivery in 7-10 days). The $10 passes are far more affordable than the $99 fine you’ll pay if you’re caught without your pass.
Mother Nature at Her Finest
We checked the state’s website to discover the details on what these passes provide access for:
- More than 100 developed state parks
- More than 350 primitive recreation sites, including campgrounds and picnic areas
- Nearly 700 water-access points
- Nearly 2,000 miles of designated water and land recreation trails
- More than 80 natural areas
- More than 30 wildlife areas
- State recreation lands offer amazing outdoor experiences on diverse landscapes including forests, water trails, beaches
For quite some time, budget cuts had made it difficult to upkeep the beautiful parks located in this state. Citing shrinking revenues, park officials said it was becoming impossible to maintain the facilities and ensuring park safety with what few tax dollars that trickled down. The passes have eased those burdens considerably. With more than three million acres throughout the state, visitors enjoy fishing, wind surfing, boating, wildlife viewing, paragliding, hiking, biking and much more. It’s truly a great way for families to reconnect without blowing the budget.
Now, the state is able not only to maintain the parks, but to develop new facilities, provide maintenance, make payroll and even bring on new employees. The state was forced to shift from relying on tax revenue solely and move to the state’s general funds, which are filled with the costs of the day and annual passes. The added credit card machines were the dedication and persistence of three state agencies, including Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, Washington State Department of Natural Resources and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Would you use a credit card machine to cover your day passes or to purchase an annual pass? Is the convenience worth it? Let us know your thoughts. After all, even if you don’t live in Washington state, odds are, there’s a credit card machine coming to a state park near you – and it’s likely going to be sooner rather than later.
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