State Parks will consider allowing limited motorized vehicle use on long-distance trails

Hikers on the state’s long-distance trails might see some non-recreational motorized vehicles if the State Parks and Recreation Commission approves a new policy when it meets Thursday.

The commission is expected to consider allowing limited use of the agency’s 455 miles of long-distance trail corridors. The trail corridors are legally set aside for non-motorized recreation only. The trails, all former railroad rights-of-way, are Iron Horse State Park Trail, Willapa Hills State Park Trail, Klickitat State Park Trail, Columbia Plateau State Park Trail, and Spokane River Centennial State Park Trail.

In the interest of being good neighbors, State Parks is seeking additional flexibility and consistency in use of the trails. One example of a possible use would be allowing farmers to use the trail right-of-way to access their fields, according to a State Parks news release.

The policy would set guidelines for obtaining permits and is meant to ensure agency responsiveness to such requests. The policy also would provide oversight to prevent adverse effects on recreationists and to recoup the cost of any trail damage from the use of motorized vehicles, the release stated.

The commission also will consider adopting policy statements to provide direction for the agency’s real estate management activities in four areas: recreation business activities, enterprise lands, land transfers and exchanges with other government jurisdictions, and land leases from other jurisdictions.

The department manages about 124 developed parks, marine parks, heritage sites and properties, totaling about 120,000 acres statewide. The agency manages leases on some properties, while holding others for future development.

The policy recommendations include allowing privately financed development of recreation facilities in state park areas, including possible lodges, supply stores, cafes and restaurants, and leasing of surplus land to generate revenue.

OTHER BUSINESS: The commission will consider adoption of the 2015 director’s performance agreement, an annual work plan for the agency and director Don Hoch. Several reports will be presented, including reports on the agency’s boating programs, interpretive program, new marketing efforts for the Discover Pass, current finances and 2015-17 budget requests, and a legislative report.

WORK SESSION: On Wednesday, from 9 a.m.-noon, the commission will hold a work session in the Labor & Industries auditorium, 7273 Linderson Way SW, Tumwater.

Topics for the work session agenda include progress on the Governor’s Results Washington performance program, reservation system status, the status of a Saint Edward Seminary rehabilitation proposal and the agency’s social media program. That afternoon, commissioners are to meet with legislators at the Capitol.

Work sessions are open to the public, but no time has been scheduled for public testimony. The commission takes no formal action at work sessions.

COMMISSION TRAINING: The commission also will take part in a training workshop on parliamentary procedure Friday.