The legislative session is underway in Washington State and earlier this week we were shocked to
learn of a bill that would severely limit access to the state's rivers and shorelines.
Specifically the bill would prohibit water access on small parcels of public land unless the
managing agency provides a formal river access site and parking lot.
While we support the development of river access sites and designated parking at sites where use
levels justify the investment, many of the thousands of river access sites across the state that
are used by paddlers and fishermen are informal access points at street ends, within bridge
right-of-ways, and on small parcels of public land. Under the proposed legislation, public land
managers would be required to post signage that public access to the water is prohibited on small
parcels of public land without formal parking that currently provide access to our state's
waterways. Violators would be charged with a misdemeanor. If enacted, this would result in the
loss of key access points we actively use on rivers like the Nooksack, Skykomish, Middle Fork
Snoqualmie, Wind, Washougal, Wenatchee, Tilton, White Salmon and many others across the state.
This legislation is all the more surprising when one considers the economic impact of outdoor
recreation in Washington State. A report on the Economic Impacts of Outdoor
published earlier this month by Earth Economics for the State of Washington found
a $21.6 billion economic impact from outdoor recreation supporting nearly 200,000 jobs, with over
one third of that activity occurring along water. These benefits will not be realized if the
public can't get to the water.
We encourage our members in Washington State to reach out to their state representatives to
express their thoughts on this legislation (Find
The bill was introduced by Representative Haler
from Richland, WA and you can view the House State
Government Committee Hearing video.
The comments of Representative Haler, the sponsor of
the bill, begin at the start of the hearing. He describes the motivation for this bill as being a
conflict on the Yakima River where high use and inadequate parking at site used for river access
is impacting an adjacent property owner. Following the testimony of Representative Haler, other
bills are discussed; the committee returns to HB 1056 and the testimony in opposition from
agencies including Deparment of Ecology, State Parks, and Department of Natural Resources begins
The full text of the bill is below:
AN ACT Relating to restricting the use of certain parcels of public land to access a public body
of water; adding a new section to chapter 79.02 RCW; and prescribing penalties.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON:
NEW SECTION. Sec. 1. A new section is added to chapter 79.025RCW to read as follows:
(1) If a parcel of public land is one-quarter of a square mile or less in size and is adjacent to
a body of public water and the land is or can be used to access the body of public water, the
governmental entity which has jurisdiction of the land must provide adequate public parking for
persons utilizing the land to access the water.
(2) If adequate public parking is not provided, using the land to access the water for other than
a governmental purpose is prohibited. If adequate public parking is not provided, the
governmental entity which has jurisdiction of the land must post a warning sign for the public
that clearly shows that using the land to access the water is prohibited and states the sanction
for a violation of the prohibition.
(3) A violation of this section is a misdemeanor.