Auburn area's Green River Gorge State Park project funded

The Auburn area will receive $540,828 in funding for Green River Gorge State Park – Icy Creek Trail Easement.

The state Recreation and Conservation Office released a complete list of projects funded through the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) at a hearing Wednesday afternoon in Olympia. The projects were funded after legislators reached across party lines during the 2011 session to save the WWRP and the vital conservation projects the program funds in communities around the state.

The Auburn-area project was among those that had been hanging in the balance.

Green River Gorge State Park is a conservation area located in King County, 2.5 miles south of Black Diamond and eight miles north of Enumclaw off State Highway 169. Areas within the park include the Flaming Geyser Recreation Area.

"I want to applaud the House and Senate leadership, Democrats and Republicans alike, for coming together on this issue," said Dan Evans, former governor and founding co-chair of the Washington Wildlife And Recreation Coalition (WWRC), which advocates for the WWRP, with Mike Lowry, another former governor. "Funding conservation projects is an important part of maintaining our heritage and way of life in Washington state."

In addition to the $42 million the legislature approved, which funds more than 55 critical projects statewide, the Legislature also ensured that the WWRP maintained its integrity, continuing to fund projects using a nonpartisan, merit-based criteria that has made the WWRP a successful and nationally recognized program.

"Twenty-two years ago, when we founded this coalition, we wanted to create a program that serves generations of Washingtonians to come," Lowry said. "I join communities around the state in thanking the legislature for these vital recreation and conservation projects which are so important to our quality of life and our economy."

Officials said projects funded by the WWRP will save hundreds of acres of land for outdoor recreation and wildlife habitat. Renewing WWRP funding is an essential investment in the long-term prosperity of the state because of the number of jobs that outdoor recreation like fishing, hunting and hiking and more brings to our state, they said.

Annually, parks and recreation-based activities generate some $8.5 billion in retail dollars and millions in tax dollars, supporting 115,000 jobs statewide, officials said.

"It was a long and difficult session, but in the end everyone worked together for a common good," said Joanna Grist, executive director of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, which advocates for the WWRP. "We are incredibly thankful that both the Senate and the House recognize not only the importance of funding conservation projects and maintaining our heritage, but also in maintaining the integrity of the WWRP."

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