Washington’s Great Outdoors: Your Chance to Shape the Future

A view from the Spokane River Centennial Trail looking at the Monroe Street Bridge from the newly completed trail segment through Kendall Yards.

A view from the Spokane River Centennial Trail looking at the Monroe Street Bridge from the newly completed trail segment through Kendall Yards — a beautiful outdoor experience in the heart of Spokane’s downtown. Riverside State Park, Washington’s largest state park, lies just downstream from this vantage point, with two rivers, multiple campgrounds, equestrian and off-road vehicle areas, cultural and historical sites, boating and paddling access, whitewater rafting, and miles of mixed-use trails. Mount Spokane State Park‘s trails, skiing, and hiking lie 33 miles away. Spokane County has acquired over 7,000 acres with its Conservation Futures funding, a revenue source authorized by the state legislature. In 2007 an overwhelming majority of Spokane County voters (63%) approved continuing the Conservation Futures tax in perpetuity.

What’s your most vivid memory of being outdoors?

Will our great-grandchildren have the same chance to create those memories that we do today?

Will they even care about getting outdoors in an increasingly wired world of vicarious experience?

And how can we work together to invest in the irreplaceable assets of Washington state’s parks, green spaces, and wild places?

Those are the questions we’re wrestling with on Governor Inslee’s Task Force on Parks and Outdoor Recreation, which I have the honor of co-chairing with long-time civic leader, outdoors enthusiast, and chair of The Wilderness Society board Doug Walker.

We held our first organizational meeting in Olympia April 9 with the task force members, who represent a range of nonprofits and businesses working in some aspect of the outdoors. (Not every aspect — that simply wouldn’t be possible given the abundant diversity of Washington’s outdoor assets. We’re charged with working on behalf of the state as a whole, not our individual interests.)

How to Get Involved

The next meeting is coming up Monday, May 5, 9am-1pm, at REI headquarters in Kent. (Note if you plan to attend: Due to parking and check-in procedures at REI headquarters, you need to arrive by 8:30am. Guests will check in at the Rainier Building and then be escorted to the Smith Commons Building for the meeting.)

Our agenda includes a robust public comment section and you’re encouraged to attend and sign in to speak. You may also submit written comment to Meg O’Leary with the Resource and Conservation Office, who’s helping staff our work. Take a look at our charter and tell us what you would include in a plan for “strategies, actions, and recommendations to manage, transform, and leverage Washington’s outdoor recreation assets and state programs”. We’d like to know:

  • what types of outdoor experiences matter to you personally
  • how outdoor recreation adds value to you as an individual, your family, businesses in your town, and your region
  • what challenges you may face in access and enjoyment
  • what ideas and priorities you have for the future of parks and outdoor recreation in Washington

Upcoming Task Force Meetings

  • May 5, Kent
  • June 10, Spokane
  • July 8, Wenatchee
  • Aug. 19, Port Angeles

Just What Is Recreation?

Personally, I’m particularly interested in hearing how you define outdoor recreation and what it takes for you to reach and enjoy your recreation destination. As we heard at our first meeting, the traditional understanding of outdoor recreation is expanding to include activities such as bike polo played in city parks, bouldering in a county or state park, gravel biking on a Forest Service road, and much more.

At WA Bikes when we think of our recreational assets, we include the state’s roads. Our work to grow funding for trails and bike connections and map the US Bicycle Route System in Washington state reflect the growing interest in bike touring as a way of experiencing Washington’s beauty. Parks are adding bike/hike spots to encourage you to reach the outdoors by bike, not just by car. We’re bringing out a guidebook to multi-day bike tours that will take people to islands, forests, mountains, rivers, and rolling hills.

Future Challenges

We have a couple of interesting demographic pushes that stretch our thinking further: The aging Baby Boomers who will need to give up driving, perhaps long before they want to give up fishing, hiking, and birdwatching, and the Millennials who are increasingly choosing not to drive. How do we maintain access to green space for people who can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t drive?

The transportation question I pose here is just one of the challenges we’ll address as we look at Washington’s growing and changing population. This post would be too long if I tried to list them all so I’m asking you to share your thoughts in the comments below and with the task force.

Outdoor Memories

I’ll share a few outdoor memories I cherish and hope to hear yours in the comments below, at our Task Force meetings, or in the online townhall outreach system that will be available soon.

  • The smell of wood smoke and pancakes in the morning on family camping trips when I was a kid.
  • Learning to snow ski and standing at the top of a pure white mountain that sparkled like crystal under a clear blue sky saying, “Thank you for giving me this gift” to the friend who taught me to ski.
  • Rafting the Spokane River in spring (high water) through rapids of 3-3.5 in some places and saying out loud, “I feel so stupid! I’ve lived here all these years and had no idea we had this right next to downtown!”
  • Going on my first-ever bike ride of 50 miles (the Great Northwest Fall Tour in Newport), climbing through the pine-scented hills of northeast Washington, and seeing a flock of wild turkeys sauntering across the empty road ahead of us.
  • Going back to Spokane recently and riding on the newly completed segment of the Spokane River Centennial Trail through Kendall Yards, with a view of the river thundering below the graceful arch of the Monroe Street Bridge and the newly completed Huntington Park on the south bank, nestled into a hidden pocket of land below the Avista substation near City Hall. Earlier on that same ride I had ridden over the river and felt the pounding of the water below and the spray in my face in the middle of the city’s Riverfront Park.

It’s memories like these that make our work on the task force — and your involvement — so important. Help us succeed in keeping Washington’s great outdoors great.

Related Reading/Viewing

Your Turn

  • What types of outdoor experiences matter to you personally?
  • How does outdoor recreation add value to you as an individual, your family, businesses in your town, and your region?
  • What challenges do you face in access and enjoyment?
  • What ideas and priorities do you have for the future of parks and outdoor recreation in Washington?
  • What’s your favorite outdoor memory?
  • What outdoor adventure have you been meaning to try that you haven’t experienced yet?


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  1. […] Task Force on Outdoor Recreation and Parks. Washington Bikes Executive Director Barb Chamberlain served as co-chair to Governor Inslee’s T… in Washington state. One of the exciting outcomes of the work included a study showing bicycle […]