Boaters, jet-skiers, campers, hikers, and others preparing for the first holiday weekend of summer are reminded to purchase an Access Stewardship Decal for vehicle display before using Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) water access sites and wildlife areas.
The decal is required to park at WDFW's 625 water access sites and wildlife areas across the state. Fishers and hunters receive free decals when they purchase fishing and hunting licenses. Other recreationists pay $10 for the decal, available at WDFW offices, major sporting goods stores and other outlets across the state (see list of dealers)
WDFW enforcement officers will be patrolling many of the access sites over Memorial Day weekend, May 27-29, and issuing $66 infraction citations to those who have neglected to purchase a decal.
The decal requirement went into effect last year, and is intended to help WDFW recoup some of its costs of maintaining the access sites.
WDFW's water access sites make up about one-third of Washington's public boat ramps. State parks and some federal agencies have charged boat launching fees for years, but WDFW historically relied on fishing and hunting license fees to try to cover maintenance costs.
"But times have changed," said WDFW's Enforcement Chief Bruce Bjork. "There are more than twice as many people living in Washington today as about 20 years ago. Less than 25 percent of them fish now, and only about three percent hunt. People are still recreating outdoors as much or probably more than ever, but they haven't been contributing to the system to keep these public access sites open, safe, and clean."
Increased vandalism of access site toilets, signs, and other facilities stretched maintenance budgets too thin. WDFW's current budget for access maintenance is the same now as it was in 1980, and only covers about a third of the funds needed.
"A parking ticket is the last thing you want to see on your vehicle at the end of a fun day when you pull the boat or jet skis out of the water," said Bjork. "But unfortunately that's what happens to many people across the state who use our access sites and aren't paying attention to the posted signs that explain the decal requirement."