PAT NEAL: The Discover Pass disaster

It was another tough week in the news.

Legislation to eliminate the hated Discover Pass has been introduced in the state Legislature. The $30 Discover Pass, which costs $35 with the dealer fee or a $99 ticket if you don’t have one, was adopted in 2011.

It was supposed to bail out the financially troubled state parks the way the state lottery was supposed to finance public schools.

Predictably, that’s not what happened.

Even after charging up to $50 a night for a campsite with full hookups, the state parks are still going broke.

The Discover Pass is only one of a dizzying array of passes and permits that American citizens are required to buy in order to be on their own public land.

These include the state Department of Fish and Wildlife Stewardship Access Pass that comes with a fishing license, the $55 National Park Service Pass, the $30 Forest Service Pass, the $80 America the Beautiful Interagency Access Pass and various Tribal passes that may or may not be used depending on COVID quarantine restrictions.

Now, with the state government bragging about a huge budget surplus, some state legislators have suggested giving the poor people a break and not charging them to be on their own land.

Poor people can have issues scrounging the $20 for a blue tarp to camp under.

A lot of us can’t afford the gas to drive to a state park, nevermind the $50-a-night camping fee for a site with electricity and water or the $12 for the so-called primitive campsites.

Just take a look at who camps at our state parks.

There are massive gleaming motor homes and trailers pulled by huge trucks.

How about helping the blue-tarp campers who just want to go up a logging road, camp in a wide spot and maybe pick some berries and mushrooms?

Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, has introduced Senate Bill 5608 to eliminate the Discover Pass.

Wilson said: “For more than a decade, the state has had a paywall between parks and the people they are intended to serve. It’s time to get rid of the regressive parking fees and free the parks so everyone can enjoy them, regardless of their income.”

More importantly, it’s time to stop charging low-income people who cannot afford to go to a state park to buy a permit to go up a logging road to pick berries and gather mushrooms as a way of subsidizing more affluent campers in their RVs.

Why should we, the blue-tarp campers, have to subsidize RV campers to camp in their state parks?

It’s a classic case of taxation without relaxation.

If the state parks are suffering financially, why not charge the people who camp in them enough money to operate the state parks?

It’s not like the poor people are asking the RV campers to buy us a new blue tarp and bungee cords for our camping trip.

We don’t have RVs, off-road vehicles, generators or satellite dishes.

We don’t need them.

We are the low-income, low-impact campers.

We just want to be free to camp.

Why do the low-income, blue-tarp campers have to subsidize the more affluent vacationers, the RVers, for their decision to drive these gas-guzzling, traffic-jamming monuments to consumer excess in the first place?

But don’t worry. We will.

This latest bill to get rid of the Discover Pass has no chance of passing.

Too bad. We would thank ourselves later if we did the right thing and got rid of the Discover Pass now.

_________

Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via [email protected]