Veteran pledges to camp on steps of state Capitol if parks close over budget delay

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. – Legislators may say they have until midnight Friday to pass a Washington budget and avoid a government shutdown, but the state park system says its deadline comes much sooner.

Washington State Parks will need to begin shutdown procedures on Friday morning  if no state budget is passed by then, forcing campers out early.

“You guys up there in Olympia, get something done,” said Tom Hanson.

To say Hanson is upset about the potential of a government shutdown is an understatement — the Vietnam veteran said it would uproot him from his home.

“I have nowhere else to go,” he said, pointing at his camper in Dash Point State Park, “I live in this thing 24/7.”

If legislators don’t pass a budget and Gov. Jay Inslee does not sign the two-year document -- or pledge to sign it on Friday, Washington State Parks  said it will have no choice but to begin shutdown procedures.

“A park is kind of like a small city and we have a lot of different infrastructure and buildings,” said Virginia Painter, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission communications director. “It takes time to close a park.”

Many Washington state parks have their own water and wastewater treatment facilities, Painter said, adding that they can’t just flip a switch and close down.

“We need to ask the campers in the park on Friday morning the 30th to pack up and be ready to leave, because staff needs to do these preparations,” she said.

According to a fiscal fact sheet prepared by the Washington State Office of Financial Management, the state would lose at least $2 million  from camping, reservations and fees between June 30 and July 7 if there’s a shutdown.

“I would not have drove my trailer down if there was a risk of me not having a place to stay,” said Kevin Pike, in town for his church’s convention. “My plan is to be here through Monday.”

Pike said he’s hoping that legislators can work together and secure a budget, ensuring he’ll have a place to stay for the weekend.

“I pay my taxes, both according to biblical law and state law, and pay the bills for them to make decisions, so I would recommend that they do their job,” he said.

The parks commission is urging those with reservations to keep them, hoping the parks will stay open. If the government does shut down, everyone with a reservation will get a refund, said Painter.

“It’s more than about the money for people, we know that,” she said. “People really make these plans and look forward to time with their families. We’re just hoping that there will be word of a budget in time for us to keep on with business as usual.”

If not, Hanson said he has his next camping spot figured out: The steps of the Capitol.

“If they do shut it down, I am going to go to Olympia and set up there and I’ll run my generator,” he said. “After a few days, (if they) still get nothing done, I am pulling my septic tank lever.”