Moran State Park’s Environmental Learning Center may

Kids planting trees during a session of the Moran Outdoor School.

Moran State Park’s Environmental Learning Center may close

▼ Gov. Gregoire’s proposed budget calls for state park cuts

Thirteen state parks and one environmental learning center have to go.

In Governor Christine Gregoire’s proposed 2009–11 state budget, she doesn’t say which parks need to be cut, just how many. It’s up to the Washington State Parks Agency to provide a list of the state parks that do not meet its long-range plan for high quality parks with statewide significance.

Well, the list is out, and Moran State Park’s Environmental Learning Center (ELC) is slated to get the ax. The state legislature still has to put the final stamp of approval on the budget, so nothing is set in stone just yet. Moran State Park is the only park to be affected in San Juan County.

If approved, Moran’s Environmental Learning Center, Outdoor School, and two full-time employees would be eliminated from the state budget effective Sept. 15, 2009.

The learning center brings about 11,000 people to Orcas annually through private rentals and its outdoor school, which runs for 10 weeks in the spring and six weeks in the fall. Elementary students stay at the park for the duration of the school, where they engage in various kinds of environmental education. The school opened in 1995.

“So far we’ve been the golden star of the state parks,” said Linda Sheridan, the interpretive specialist for Moran State Park. Sheridan’s position, along with one of the park rangers who manages the environmental learning center, would be cut if the budget is approved.

“Another park on the list to be cut already has an environmental learning center, so it seems silly to close two ECLs when we only need to close one,” said Sheridan.

She also noted that Moran’s center is the only one in the state to offer an outdoor education program.

“We’re teaching kids and families – and really anyone who comes to visit – about nature and how to take care of the land.”

Sheridan has already written to all three legislators in the 40th District about saving Moran’s ELC, and she hopes others will as well.

For more information about Gregoire’s budget, visit www.governor.wa.gov. For information about writing to the 40th District Legislators, visit http://apps.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/results.aspx?District=40. Letters can also be mailed to Rex Derr, Director of Washington State Parks, at PO Box 42650 Olympia, WA 98504-2650.