Ad revenue likely to start flowing to state parks

OLYMPIA — Operators of Washington’s cash-strapped parks system are getting closer to tapping a source of revenue that’s been off-limits since the establishment of the state.

The state Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill this week to lift the ban on the sale of commercial advertising in the state’s 117 developed parks.

Lawmakers promised it won’t mean visitors encounter flashy signs on a hiking trail or see their favorite park renamed after a mega-corporation like Boeing or Microsoft.

But it will allow the sale of ads on the agency’s website and increased use of partnerships with private firms to cover day-to-day costs of running the parks system.

Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, prime sponsor of Senate Bill 6034, said lawmakers want a financially independent parks system and this bill provides tools for the state Parks and Recreation Commission to do so.

“Truth is, we do need a new funding source. This will help,” said Pearson, who is chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee. “Does this mean we will have big neon signs? No.”

It passed the Senate on 45-3 vote on Feb. 12. It will be heard by the House Committee on the Environment Feb. 19.

Under the bill, the agency could start selling a limited number of ads on its website and in its printed materials later this year.

It also encourages signing agreements with outside groups such as tribes, other public agencies and private entities for the management of parks and facilities, if doing so “results in net benefits to the state.”

And it would make it easier for donations to the nonprofit State Parks Foundation to be spent directly on day-to-day operations and maintenance rather than be funneled through the agency.

While this bill is cast as a small revenue-generating step, it is one of the most significant strides toward commercialization and privatization in the system’s 100-year history.

That’s why Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, opposed it during Wednesday’s floor debate.

“I recognize we need money to keep our parks operating,” she said. “For us to now allow advertising and commercialization as the only means of funding our parks tells me we have to go back to the drawing board.”

She’s not the only one concerned the bill could enable corporate sponsors to one day pay to get their name on a park or install a neon billboard promoting their product.

Supporters of the bill said there are restrictions on what types of advertising will be allowed and where they can appear.

Also, the state Parks and Recreation Commission adopted guidelines last month that follow rules used by the federal government in deciding what is allowable on building and in federal parks.

Parks commissioner Pat Lantz said the panel never considered selling naming rights but she’s been pleased by the brouhaha stirred by worry of such prospects.

“It’s an affirmation to us that we are stewards of assets that are important to the public,” she said.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

More in Local News

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
No right turns on red gets a look, a bid to expand sports betting arrives

It’s a new week. Here’s what’s happening on Day 22 of the 2023 session of the Washington Legislature

A man was injured and a woman found dead Sunday night after an RV fire in Marysville. (Marysville Fire District)
Woman dead, man burned in Marysville RV fire

The Snohomish County Fire Marshal’s Office and Marysville Police Department were investigating the cause of the fire.

Logo for news use featuring Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington. 220118
Port of Coupeville to make offer on Oak Harbor airport

The Port of Coupeville continues to pursue ownership of the A.J. Eisenberg Airport near Oak Harbor.

James Lewis
COVID still ‘simmering’ in the county, while booster uptake remains low

Meanwhile, flu and RSV cases have plummeted, suggesting the “tripledemic” could — emphasis on “could” — be fading.

Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times
Former VA-115 member Jack Keegan speaks at a presentation on base commemorating the last crew from NAS Whidbey Island shot down during the Vietnam War.
Whidbey Island air base honors crew lost in Vietnam War

NAS Whidbey Island will host several upcoming events commemorating the end of the Vietnam War.

Construction continues on the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023 in Mountlake Terrace, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Paved path, plaza coming to Mountlake Terrace near light rail

The public space additions are envisioned as boosting access to the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center.

Herald publisher Rudi Alcott
A note from the publisher

The Daily Herald publisher Rudi Alcott discusses our new publishing schedule and newspaper delivery by mail.

A section of contaminated Wicks tidelands on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Port acquisition marks next step in toxic cleanup on Everett waterfront

Private owners donated land near the contaminated Wicks Tide Flats to the Port of Everett. Cleanup work could begin within the year.

Locals from the group Safe Lynnwood gather in front of the Ryann Building on 196th Street SW to protest the opening of a methadone clinic in the building on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Despite controversy, Lynnwood opioid treatment center opens its doors

For weeks, protesters have objected to the center opening near Little League fields and a Boys and Girls Club.

Most Read