Wallace Falls State Park will host the first of 12 free days on Monday, January 1, 2018.
Discover Pass Free Days were implemented along with the Discover Pass in 2011, as a way to promote the Washington State Parks system and encourage park use. On free days, a Discover Pass is not required to visit a state park. The cost-free parks usage applies to day use only, not overnight stays or rented facilities. To celebrate the event, Wallace Falls State Park will host two guided hikes, available to anybody who wishes to participate.
The first hike will be led by Senior Park Aide Leslie Holmes. Holmes’ hike will begin at 9:30 a.m., and will venture up the interpretive trail, with a focus on plants and the ecosystem. The hike will take about an hour, but guests are welcome to come and go as they please.
The second hike will be led by Wallace Falls Park Manager Kevin Lease. Lease’s hike begins at 10 a.m., venturing up the Woody Trail to the Middle Falls, and will focus on general parks information. The hike will take at least a couple hours, but is very fluid and folks can disperse as they wish.
The first free day of the year is typically very popular, said Lease, as many people have the day off and are looking for something to do. The first of the year hike is a tradition established by Lease’s predecessor, Shawn Tobin, former Wallace Falls park manager who now serves as region manager.
Wallace Falls State Park became an official park in 1977. The park encompasses a total of 1,380 acres, including three lakes, 13 waterfalls, five cabins, three backcountry campsites, 12 miles of hiking trails, five miles of biking trails, two picnic shelters and a park store. Adventurers embarking on the Woody Trail are greeted by a sign that says, “Come forth into the light of things. Let nature be your teacher.”
Gold Bar Elementary School teachers Phyllis Tubbs and Tanya Christian put that sentiment into practice, using the park as an outdoor classroom to facilitate “First Grade Forest Days.” Tubbs and Christian solicit help from parent volunteers to take students on an outdoor adventure up the Woody Trail, where they look for birds, interesting plants or anything else that catches their fancy.
The park features an easily walkable, user-friendly trail system, a 265-foot waterfall, river views and streams – all surrounded by rich, old-growth coniferous forests.
Washington State Parks is currently engaged in a parks planning process known as Classification and Management Planning (CAMP), a “multi-staged, public participation-based planning process for individual parks that culminates with adoption of park land classifications, a long-term park boundary, and a park management plan. The combination of these deliverables constitutes a land use plan. The CAMP process typically takes ten to 15 months to complete.”
The process kicked off on November 15, 2017, with a public meeting held at Sultan City Hall that focused on the identification of park issues. Washington State Parks Planner Randy Kline facilitated the meeting, utilizing a post-it note system to accumulate public feedback regarding the park. Comments written on post-it notes were collected about parking issues, long-term park boundaries, trails and recreational facilities and other topics.
The next meeting is slated for February 2018, giving Parks the chance to respond to the feedback.
Wallace Falls State Park is one of the Sky Valley’s most popular parks, boasting approximately 225,000 visitors in 2016. The park features a series of lakes and wetland systems, along with two known rare plant species; the Gnome plant and pinefoot.
Parks is still accepting public comments and feedback about Wallace Falls State Park.
“We welcome the public input,” Lease said.
For more information on the Wallace Falls planning process including how to submit a comment, please visit: https://parks.state.wa.us/1074/Wallace-Falls-Planning. For a list of all the free days planned for 2018, please visit: https://discoverpass.wa.gov/.