DNR Launches Statewide Sustainable Recreation Planning Process
September 11, 2023
The Outdoor Access and Responsible Recreation Strategic Plan is intended to guide development and funding requests as Washington state adapts to increased public use and climate change
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources is launching the development process for a statewide sustainable recreation plan this month to create a useable, actionable vision to guide the development and management of outdoor access and recreation activities on DNR-managed public lands.
DNR is launching the Outdoor Access and Responsible Recreation Strategic Plan process by engaging with Tribes starting this month. The outcomes of this work will then guide a work group process planned for this winter with stakeholders and interested parties. A pair of public town halls, also planned for this winter, will solicit broad input on the responsible and sustainable use of DNR-managed land for generations to come. The final plan will be used to support potential statutory and legislative budget requests and set agency recreation management priorities over the next decade.
Recreational use demand on DNR-managed lands is growing briskly – including a 21 percent increase in visitation from 2019 to 2020 – creating increasing pressures that affect visitor experience, natural and cultural resources, Tribal rights, recreation site maintenance and safety, biodiversity and wildlife, and more. The strategic plan will allow DNR to adapt to this increased use, continuing population growth, and climate change to ensure that natural, cultural, and Tribal resources are protected as the agency offers high-quality and accessible recreation opportunities across Washington state.
“Washington state has some of the best outdoor recreation on Earth, and some of its greatest treasures – including Oyster Dome, Mount Si, and Gothic Basin – are on DNR-managed lands,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, who oversees the department. “As both their popularity and our population increase, we need to ensure we can protect these amazing places so that present and future generations can enjoy them. The Outdoor Access and Responsible Recreation Plan will build a framework to maintain and develop opportunities to get outdoors throughout the state that are consistent with our values as Washingtonians.”
The framework for the plan is built around five draft goals:
- Preserve and protect the natural environment and cultural resources
- Build an outdoor stewardship and responsibility ethic to care for these resources
- Increase equitable outdoor access and responsible recreation development, stewardship, and management
- Secure financial stability for recreation development, stewardship, and management
- Mitigate climate impacts and build resilience
DNR anticipates convening five work groups – one work group for each of the draft goals – to brainstorm, identify, and prioritize ways to meet the goals. DNR has invited parties with an interest in or experience with statewide recreation management to participate in the work group process. As part of this process, DNR is engaging with groups that advocate for traditionally underserved communities to ensure their voices are heard as the plan is developed.
After completing the work group process and initial public meetings, DNR plans to release the draft Outdoor Access and Responsible Recreation Strategic Plan for public comment in spring 2024, with final publication expected by late summer.
For members of the general public, DNR plans to hold virtual public town halls this winter to collect initial input for development of the plan as well as public meetings in 2024 to review and collect feedback on a completed draft plan.
Across the 5.6 million acres of public lands it manages statewide, DNR offers 1,300 miles of developed trails and more than 160 recreation sites, including 80 campgrounds.
For more information about the plan, including details on the town hall meetings, go to https://www.dnr.wa.gov/staterecplan