Sustain Our Legacy

Sustain and Grow the Legacy of Parks, Trails and Conservation Lands

Washington has a wide range of parks, trails, and publicly accessible conservation areas that support the diverse recreation opportunities that residents seek. Whether it’s walking at a favorite local park or camping at a state park, there is a wealth of recreation opportunities in Washington. This breadth and beauty of our recreation and conservation system did not happen overnight. Only through the foresight of yesterday’s leaders, did Washingtonians gain their park and open space systems.

Leaders today face the hard challenge of keeping existing recreation and conservation areas and facilities open, safe and enjoyable for all. Some areas need modification to meet the interests of today’s population. Park leaders cite the difficulty of sustaining existing areas while expanding and building new facilities to keep up with a growing population.


The Recreation and Conservation Funding Board’s Unifying Strategy will help sustain our legacy of recreation and conservation through the following actions:

  • Providing funds to Build, Renovate, and Maintain Parks and Trails for a variety of outdoor recreation and conservation needs,
  • Providing funds to Conserve Habitat with an emphasis on climate change resiliency, ecosystem services, and wetlands,
  • Encouraging projects that Support State Plans, Strategies, and Initiatives to leverage multiple statewide benefits,
  • Committing to Maintain and Improve the Mapped Inventory of outdoor, and recreation and conservation land and facilities to know where there are gaps in the parks, trails and conservation land system.

Partners can also help to implement this priority by including the following recommendations in their work.

Renovate facilities to meet today’s recreation needs

Funding to maintain existing facilities is the number one financial stress for recreation service providers and land managers.[1] Maintaining existing facilities is essential to providing the same level of service to today’s population, but falls short of meeting the needs of the growing population and  its changing interests. In addition, dense urban areas may no longer have affordable land to expand their parks, trails, and conservation lands to accommodate new interests.

When funding is available to renovate and improve existing facilities, recreation and conservation leaders need to collaborate with users to determine if a park or trail is ripe for adaptation to new recreation interests. Doing so keeps the park and trail system meeting the needs of today’s recreation users and brings more people outside. Support from elected officials, funding agencies and the public to maintain, renovate and improve existing facilities will help leaders address their top funding issue. Providing new approaches and accommodating new recreation opportunities at existing facilities will address the growing diversity of recreation interests.

Lake Sammamish State Park

First opened in 1952, Lake Sammamish State Parks is being renovated to accommodate more people, provide new amenities, and improve salmon habitat.

Pursue regional solutions to recreation and conservation

Whether in urban or rural settings, economic, social, and environmental complexities demand planning on a regional scale. Individual jurisdictions and organizations can no longer afford “going it alone” to acquire and maintain certain types of recreation facilities and conservation lands. Traditional political boundaries have diminished relevance because human, political, and economic capital is limited. Planning on a regional scale for recreation and conservation is needed to meet these changing dynamics.

Specifically, conservation lands, trails, athletic facilities and aquatic facilities would benefit from greater regional coordination. For more recommendations on regional coordination for trails and athletic facilities, see the State Trails Plan and the State Athletic Facilities Plan. Outdoor swimming pools and aquatic centers are another type of facility that serves users from a broad region and would benefit from regional and public/private partnerships. Conserving habitat also requires landscape level planning and coordination to protect sensitive and priority plants and animals.

Examples of successful regional collaboration are happening across the state

Regional Area Collaboration Effort
Central Puget Sound Regional Open Space Strategy
Eastern Washington Eastern Washington Coordinating Group
King County Eastside Rail Corridor
Washington State Habitat and Recreation Lands Coordinating Group
Build partnerships to leverage better results

Partnerships between public, private, nonprofit, and tribal organizations can better serve the needs of outdoor recreationists and maximize conservation results. Leveraging partnerships brings together the community and highlights each partner’s strengths. As costs rise and land availability dwindles, partnerships can be an opportunity to create better results.

Collaboration also leverages resources other than public funds to support our public parks, trails, and conservation lands. Volunteer time, labor, and equipment can move a project from impossible to achievable. At the local level, including volunteers brings in local knowledge, fosters local ownership of a site, and plants the seed for future local support. Private partners can also address needs that otherwise would not be met given limited public funding.

Examples of successful partnerships are happening across the state

Location Partnership
City of Lacey, Thurston County Regional Athletic Complex
Vancouver, WA and Portland, Oregon The Intertwine
Maple Falls, WA Upper Nooksack River Recreation Plan
Include recreation needs when planning for growth

Local jurisdictions that must comply with the Growth Management Act need support, both technical and financial, to include recreation and conservation needs in their local plan for growth. The Recreation and Conservation Funding Board also requires local plans in order to be eligible to apply for state grant funds. Technical and financial assistance is needed to support local planning that includes recreation and conservation needs and meets state grant requirements. Jurisdictions can include recreation needs in other plans, such as active transportation and mobility plans. Jurisdictions may also have a local metropolitan planning organization that can assist them with recreation planning. By coordinating this planning, public benefit is maximized.

Many counties and cities with small populations do not have the money or expertise to plan for growth. The Washington State Legislature should fully fund the technical assistance program to assist jurisdictions in meeting the park, trail and open space planning requirements in state law.[2]

Below are resources to help jurisdictions with planning efforts and examples of smaller jurisdictions with completed recreation plans.

Resources for recreation planning

Recreation and Conservation Office -Grants Grant Planning Requirements
Recreation and Conservation Office -Planning Guide Planning for Parks, Recreation, and Open Space in Your Community
Municipal Resource Service Center – Parks, Open Space and Trails Planning Park Planning, Design, and Open Space
Department of Commerce – Capital Facilities Planning Capital Facilities Planning
National Park Service – River, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program River, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program

Examples of successful park, trail and open space planning

JurisdictionPlanning Document
Town of Twisp Comprehensive Plan
City of Kent Park and Open Space Plan
City of Castle Rock and Castle Rock School District Park and Recreation Plan
Ferry County Comprehensive Plan
City of Ilwaco Parks, Trails, and Natural Areas Plan 2014-2020
City of Mabton 20160 to 2020 Parks and Cemetery Comprehensive Plan
Maintain residents' level of satisfaction in recreation opportunities

Sustaining and growing parks, trails, and conservation lands relies on the public’s demand for those facilities and their satisfaction with opportunities available. In the 2017 general population survey, people were asked to rate their satisfaction with the public facilities and opportunities in the last 12 months for each activity surveyed. Residents continually express their satisfaction (more than 75 percent were satisfied or highly satisfied) with the current recreation facilities and opportunities available.[3] Recreation providers have this benchmark to maintain a high level of satisfaction from users.

Recreation Fee study

In 2016, the Washington Legislature provided direction and funding to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission to develop options to improve the recreational access fee systems in Washington. The Commission is working with the William H. Ruckelshaus Center at the University of Washington to conduct a collaborative process to develop the recommendations. See the project Web page for more information.

[1] Hedden, Brent, “2017 Washington State Recreation and Conservation Plan, Provider Survey Results” 2017.

[2] Washington State Legislature, “Section 36.70A.190” 1991.

[3] Jostad, Schultz, Chase, “State of Washington 2017 Assessment of Outdoor Recreation Demand Report” 2017.

Print this page