For many years, I have visited the San Juan Islands during the summer months on bicycle camping tours. A highlight has always been to spend a few daytime hours at Cascade Lake in Moran State Park on Orcas Island, if not to camp there. Not anymore.
Two days ago, I arrived at the lake-side beach and swimming area for the first time in three years, looking forward to a swim in the lake on a hot, sunny day. I discovered to my disappointment, nay shock, that the area has been taken over by a small flock of Canada geese. The entire grass area fronting the lakefront is an awful mess of goose droppings. I was so disgusted that I quickly exited the park.
This situation not only deprives visitors of the opportunity to swim in the lake, I believe it is also a public health hazard. The beach area overlaps with an adjoining, busy and popular children’s playground area. And, the goose droppings no doubt wash into the lake every time it rains, creating an unknown risk (to me at least) of water quality.
I don’t understand the priority given by the park to what I observed to be a small flock of geese, numbering eight to 10. They have access to many lakes untouched by humans. They are far from being an endangered species. The protocol to discourage their presence at the Cascade Lake swimming area would be benign – the use of trained dogs to chase them away. Presumably, the park managers are either indifferent to this loss of access by visitors to the beachfront and the lake, or they are constrained by budget cuts from doing anything. I assume the latter.
This whole situation seems at odds with the “Discover Pass” tax introduced several years ago to gain access to Washington state parks. Should not the tax at least maintain, if not improve, access to state parks?
For the record, I consider national, state and provincial parks in North America to be cultural treasures that should be encouraged and celebrated, not taxed. Out of principle, I would never pay a vehicle tax to enter one. As a cyclist, I have the privilege of entering these parks without being obliged to pay a tax. But as I saw at Moran State Park, I, the cyclist, am nonetheless a victim of the indifference to parks that seems to be taking root in our two countries.
By a stroke of good fortune, the tax on entry to the provincial parks in British Columbia was abolished several years ago. I wish I could say that our political leaders here awoke to the precious cultural acquisition that parks represent, and acted accordingly. Alas, their decision to abolish to park tax was no more than a case of political opportunism. Nevertheless, maybe Washington state legislators could start there.