By Laurelle Walsh
For the second time in as many years, Rick Lewis is making preparations to shut down the state parks he manages. And if the Washington state Legislature can’t come up with a two-year budget by midnight on Tuesday (June 30), agencies across the state will be turning on their answering machines and locking their doors.
“I really believe they’re going to have a budget ready to present to the governor,” said the ever-optimistic Lewis. “It’s the fourth time in my career that I’ve seen it come down to the wire, and we’ve never had to close yet.”
Nonetheless Lewis, manager of Washington State Parks’ Okanogan Highlands Area, is preparing his staff to begin closing down Pearrygin Lake, Conconully and Curlew state parks on Monday (June 29). They can’t wait until July 1, he said, because his parks “can’t accrue any costs during that time.”
If no budget deal is made by Monday morning, all campers in his campgrounds will have to be checked out by 1 p.m. that day, Lewis said. Once the campgrounds are empty, Lewis and his staff will begin closing and securing all facilities and equipment and shutting off irrigation, water and sewer pumps — “anything that accrues costs,” he said.
Park gates will be locked at midnight on Tuesday. Resident rangers will continue to reside on park property, but will not be permitted to work, Lewis said. He expected all park employees to receive layoff notices this week, absent a budget agreement.
Washington State Parks’ reservation services will be notifying all customers with reservations of the impending shutdown, Lewis said.
Although Washington state came close to a shutdown in 2013, lawmakers managed to deliver a budget to the governor’s desk by June 30 that year.