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WA Parks Officials Say Visitor Numbers Up; Some Parks Showing Wear

Washington Dept. of Parks and Recreation

Washington’s state parks have become very popular this summer, thanks to people who are escaping home for a little fun and relaxation.

All that love is taking its toll, particularly on one north Spokane park.

Diana Dupuis is the area manager for five state parks in eastern Washngton, including Riverside and Mt. Spokane.

“We’ve looked at our traffic counters, that’s how we monitor our attendance, and we’ve seen anywhere from a 40%-to-60% increase from the last week of July in 2019 to the last week of July in 2020," Dupuis said.

Dupuis says some of the largest increases are at Riverside, particularly visitors to the Little Spokane River. The biggest issue is parking.

“The parking gets filled very quickly. We have trailheads that are filled at seven o’clock in the morning. Then people either make up their own parking, which can be very dangerous because we have a high fire danger right now. Hot exhaust pipes on dry grass is often a really bad equation," she said.

She says people will often park along country roads and walk to their destination, sometimes causing safety hazards.

Dupuis is asking people who enjoy Riverside to obey the rules. That means no booze, no swimming in the Little Spokane or dogs or bicycles on trails. Floating the river is allowed in kayaks, canoes and hard bottom rafts, not inner tubes or other floats with open bottoms.

At Mt. Spokane, she says, the greatest worry is safety and traffic, especially on narrow and often winding roads.

Dupuis says the parks department is happy people are flocking to natural areas, but she asks them to behave themselves.

“A lot of our normal human patterns have been changed dramatically and going outdoors is a great idea. I think people should recognize that if you’re there a little later and the parking is full, try it on a different time, on a different day," she said.

She asks that people respect the need for today’s ever-present requirements in public settings for masks and social distancing.