Nolte stays open

Nolte State Park near Enumclaw was once headed for “mothball” status, the apparent victim of a dwindling state budget and forced reductions in its park system.

Nolte State Park near Enumclaw was once headed for “mothball” status, the apparent victim of a dwindling state budget and forced reductions in its park system.

Now, it’s open and operating as usual, courtesy of the state Legislature’s hope that taxpaying citizens will willingly pony up the money needed to keep a handful of parks afloat.

Late last year, when it was clear that the state was headed into a serious budget deficit, it was proposed that certain parks be closed and perhaps sold, while others, including Nolte, be mothballed – temporarily closed until the economy turns around and, in theory, more money becomes available.

The Legislature went a different direction, keeping parks open and adopting an untested program aimed at collecting necessary funds. When licensing vehicles, owners have had the option of adding $5 to the total to help pay for park operations; beginning later this year, the $5 park fee will be automatically added to the license total and people will have to opt out of paying the extra money.

Legislators are hoping the shift produces enough extra revenue to bolster the parks system.

When it appeared Nolte was to be mothballed, a group of park boosters rallied in support, spearheaded by Buckley resident Joe Bicondoa. They were ready and willing to tackle park maintenance, taking steps necessary to keep the recreation area – which is home to popular Deep Lake – available to the public.

Volunteers have already made their mark at the park, cleaning the parking lot on a recent weekend and picking up trash.

Bicondoa calls the legislative program “bittersweet.” While happy the park is open for the season, he’s concerned that no concrete funds – money already in the park system – were dedicated to Nolte. This year’s answer has no guarantees, he said, and parks could again wind up on the chopping block.

Reach Kevin Hanson at khanson@courierherald.com or 360-802-8205.

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