King County wants illegal dumpers to pay up

SEATTLE - Tires, household appliances, furniture, and construction materials; you name it, and more than likely King County Parks staff has seen it trashed on public park lands. Now, in an effort to keep illegal dumping at bay, the county wants to slap future violators with a hefty fine.

Under current county rules, it's illegal to throw your trash on public park lands, but there is no system or policy in place giving the county the authority or ability to actually cite an offender.

King County Parks is responsible for keeping more than 26,000 acres of parks and natural areas clean, and the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks' Doug Williams admits it's a tough job, especially with so many remote and rural areas to cover. The county's hope is the threat of a fine will keep people for dumping in the first place.

"Right now, the main things we have are a lot of signage," Williams said. "We also have physical barriers and gates to try to keep people out of more remote areas."

Even with a grant from the Department of Ecology, Williams said this year the county has spent nearly $60,000 cleaning up litter and illegal dumpsites, and that doesn't include staff time.

Under the proposed rule change, King County Parks would be able to fine $100 for an initial violation and up to $500 for any repeat violators. Illegal dumpers could also face restitution payments, which would help defray the county's cleaning costs.

Williams said not only does illegal dumping require a lot of staff time and money, but dump sites also threaten the county's environmental efforts.

"A lot of park lands are conservation lands for fish and wildlife habitats," he said. "These sites are harmful to species we are trying to preserve and protect."

The public can review and make comments on the amendment until Dec. 23. Following the review period, the new rules will take effect Jan. 23.