Sports & Outdoors

Pierce County libraries offer an affordable way to check out Washington

Pictured: An adventure backpack available for checkout — Photo courtesy of Washington State Parks

For many South Sounders, accessing the great outdoors in the Pacific Northwest is not as easy as hopping in the Subaru and heading for the mountains.

Access to a vehicle, picnic supplies and hiking gear can all present barriers even before you get to the trailhead. Not to mention, the $30 Discover Pass that is required at any state trail or park is often not worth the cost for a family that only goes for a hike a few times a year.

The Washington State Parks Foundation has partnered with the Washington State Library, with funding from the Washington State Parks Foundation and participation of Pierce County.

This program will last one year and allows for families to check out a Discover Pass and adventure backpack from any library in Pierce County — 41 locations in total.

“Our commitment is giving people access to the outdoors … your ability to get outside should not be contingent on income, where you live, how urban you are and if you are using public transportation,” Meryl Lipman of Washington State Parks said.

The program will launch on different dates throughout March, and the excitement among library card-holders is high.

Each library only has one Discover Pass and adventure pack — to be checked out on a week-long limit — which Lipman says might not be enough to meet demand.

“We already have huge interest … I think people will be fighting to get them!” she said.

While families won’t be able to reserve passes, they will be able to see when and where they are next available, allowing hikers to plan their adventures at least a week in advance.

Maya Gilliam, a sophomore who works at the Expeditionary, believes this program will help encourage students who are not already a part of Puget Sound Outdoors (PSO) to feel more comfortable and able in accessing the wilderness.

“There is a whole stereotype that comes with even walking into the Expy — it can be really intimidating especially if you aren’t already a part of PSO. Having the pass be available at libraries in the area will encourage non-PSO community members to get out there,” she said.

Gilliam flagged the expense of the pass — especially for college students — as a barrier to outdoor adventure, but also noted the importance of having one.

“You need some sort of pass to go on basically any hike in the area,” she said.

The program does have some potential glitches: there are only 41 passes available and people are going to need a library card to access a pass. But community members can easily sign up for a card at their local library and officials still believe that despite its shortcomings, the program will ultimately still be beneficial.

“I think it will be a smashing success!” Lipman said.