Fee starts Monday at Hylebos

Mirror staff

A Federal Way environmental group this week criticized the state’s new $5 parking fee at West Hylebos Wetlands State Park, calling it contrary to the park’s mission and an insult to the memory of the park’s founder.

The fee will be collected at the park in south Federal Way beginning next Monday.

Park founder Ilene Marckx, a Federal Way resident who died in 1999, dedicated her life to opening the West Hylebos Wetlands to the public “so they could experience this magnificent natural wonder,” said Chris Carrel, executive director of Friends of the Hylebos Wetlands. “The state is slamming the door shut to many in our community.”

Carrel said the $5 parking fee will be a deterrent to many, including families and school groups who have been heavy users of the park.

Friends, a non-profit organization, hopes park visitors will be able to leave their vehicles next door at city property at Historical Cabin Park as an alternative to paying the parking fee.

“We’re hoping we can work together with the city to find a solution,” he said.

Ilene and Francis Marckx donated their own land, worth more than $1 million, to the state to develop the West Hylebos park. They never envisioned, nor would they have condoned, parking fees or entrance fees, Carrel said.

The state Parks and Recreation Commission began charging the fee at state parks statewide Jan. 1 as a way of dealing with a multi-million dollar maintenance backlog and the state’s severe state budget crisis.

In January, state parks officials informed Friends of the Hylebos Wetlands that a parking fee would not be implemented at West Hylebos Wetlands State Park. That changed this week when state legislators from the Federal Way area were informed that the state would begin collecting the $5 fee on March 3. Friends of the Hylebos, however, was never officially notified, Carrel claimed.

Carrel said the fee is unfair at West Hylebos because the state doesn’t allocate any maintenance funds or other money for the wetlands. Friends of the Hylebos Wetlands volunteers have performed much of the trail maintenance at the park since it opened.

Virginia Painter, a state parks commission spokeswoman, said the fee is paid on a mostly voluntary basis. Rangers at individual parks have the option of enforcing the fee. There is no ranger at West Hylebos.

Visitors to parks generally have honored the fee, she said. Some have bought annual season passes in response to learning of the need for more revenue to operate and maintain the parks, she added.

Two other state parks in Federal Way –– Saltwater and Dash Point –– also have the fee.

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