By Mike Benbow Special to The Herald
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife wants to help plan your vacation.
What’s the catch?
None really, although it does hope you’ll buy a fishing license.
After years of cutbacks following declining budgets, agency employees are trying to boost license revenue by promoting one of the state’s best assets: the outdoors.
“It’s forcing us to be more entrepreneurial,” said Bruce Botka, the agency’s community outreach and public affairs manager. “We’re trying to make lemonade out of lemons.”
The result is an addition to the agency’s website called Great Getaways, which showcases 14 family travel opportunities. Included are areas along the coastline, the Methow Valley in the north central part of Washington, Ross Lake in the Cascade Range, areas along the Columbia River, and trout lakes in the Selkirk Mountains.
The focus of the site, http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/vacation, is on some of the best fishing locations, but it also contains useful information for nonanglers.
Included for the 14 areas are links to places to stay, such as state and national parks or private campgrounds, spots for other visitor information and interesting local sites.
Botka said his agency recently joined the state Tourism Alliance and is trying to promote tourism for residents and nonresidents alike.
He’s hoping residents will discover vacation opportunities in Washington that they didn’t know about.
“We’re trying to get more people involved in taking part in the outdoors,” he said. “And, we’d like to sell more licenses.”
He said the state hasn’t done a lot historically to promote tourism. But if the fishing-related site is successful, he could see it expanded to promote many other outdoor activities in Washington.
“Washington doesn’t just have some of the best fishing in the country, it also has some of the most diverse, family friendly vacation spots,” added Chris Donley, manager of the department’s inland fish program.”
An example of that is my personal favorite of the 14 areas, the Methow Valley.
I like lake fishing there in the spring and fall and fishing the Methow River for steelhead in the fall.
But the nearby Pasayten Wilderness is wonderful for hikers, cross-country skiing is great in the valley in winter, and the town of Winthrop has some shopping and restaurants, including a nice brew pub. The valley is heaven for people who like horses.
Donley said the new guide will be expanded in the coming months with new ideas for fishing-based vacations that offer a wide range of other opportunities for outdoor recreation.
Botke noted that people interested in planning a vacation shouldn’t wait until the last minute if they would like to camp in a state park. He noted that the parks can fill up months in advance, although some national forest campgrounds are first-come, first served.