Washington State Parks Adaptation Plan

Project Overview

Why an Adaptation Plan for Washington State Parks?

Recognizing the challenges that climate change poses to the agency, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission passed a resolution in 2015 directing the agency to develop a climate change preparedness plan. This plan is the critical first step in the adaptation planning process; it provides guidance to the agency as it moves through the process of increasing climate resilience.

How will Washington State Parks be Vulnerable to Climate Change?

The 2017 report, Preparing Washington State Parks for Climate Impacts: A Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment for Washington State Parks highlighted six climate-related vulnerabilities that were common across regions and statewide programs. This plan identifies adaptation actions to address these six cross-cutting programmatic concerns.

  1. Siting and design of park infrastructure is likely to be affected by climate change, especially at coastal parks threatened by sea level rise and shoreline erosion, and river parks affected by heavier rain events and flooding.
  2. Park access or access to specific amenities could be restricted more frequently due to flooding, sea level rise, shoreline erosion, landslides, wildfire and decreasing tree health.
  3. Water features of parks are likely to experience an increase in demand and lower water quality, requiring enhanced management and maintenance to maintain public safety.
  4. Park visits and revenue are likely to be negatively and positively affected. Warmer temperatures and a longer dry season may increase visitation in some seasonal parks, whereas less snowpack and more natural hazards may decrease visitation in others.
  5. Historic structures and archaeological sites could be exposed more frequently and compromised by climate change impacts, including coastal flooding, landslides, and fire.
  6. Natural resources and habitats may be negatively affected by increasing wildfire and non-native invasive species, and decreasing tree health.

How was the Washington State Parks Adaptation Plan developed?

State Parks staff completed a survey to identify which of the climate vulnerabilities identified in the 2017 Vulnerability Assessment were most important to address in the Adaptation Plan. Then, during two day-long workshops, State Parks staff (38 people) evaluated, selected, and prioritized more than 200 potential adaptation actions that were compiled by the Climate Impacts Group (CIG) from the scientific literature and existing adaptation plans. Staff refined the list to the higher-priority adaptation actions included in this plan.

What’s in the Washington State Parks Adaptation Plan?

The Washington State Park’s Adaptation Plan includes 107 potential high-priority adaptation actions to increase the climate resilience of State Parks’ properties, facilities, operations, and state-wide programs. Actions are grouped according to the timeframe anticipated for progress.

  • 36 On-Going Actions include actions the agency is already doing which will continue to be important for enhancing long-term climate resilience, as well as actions that staff have started specifically in response to the observed or expected impacts of climate change.
  • 20 Near-Term Actions on which the agency will strive to make progress over the next six years.
  • 51 Long-Term Actions for which the agency expects will take more than six years to make significant progress.

A diversity of actions will be needed to prepare the agency for climate change. Changes to practices and behavior are the most common action for all cross-cutting programmatic concerns. Other potential actions identified in the plan include policies, outreach, partnerships, data collection and monitoring, evaluation and assessments, and staff capability building.

Key Personnel 

Harriet Morgan, University of Washington

Crystal Raymond, University of Washington

Key Collaborators

Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission


Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission

Read the Report

PDF Available Here


Morgan, H., Raymond, C. 2019. Washington State Parks Adaptation Plan. A collaboration of the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group.

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