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AGO 1957 No. 64 - May 21, 1957
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


A board of county commissioners lacks the authority to impose a charge for admission upon the users of county parks.

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                                                                   May 21, 1957

Honorable Charles O. Carroll
Prosecuting Attorney of King County
County City Building
Seattle 4, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 64

Attention:  Mr. K. G. Smiles, Chief Civil Deputy

Dear Sir:

            By letter, dated April 18, 1957, you requested an opinion of this office.  We paraphrase your question as follows:

            Does a board of county commissioners have the authority to impose a charge for admission upon users of county parks?

            We answer your question in the negative.


            RCW 67.20.010 reads in part as follows:

            "Any . . . county acting through its board of county commissioners . . . shall have the power . . . to acquire any land within this state for park, playground, gymnasiums, swimming pools, field houses, and other  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] recreational facilities, bathing beach, or public camp purposes, . . . and to build, construct, care for, control, supervise, improve, operate, and maintain parks, playgrounds, (etc.) . . .

            "Any . . . county . . . shall have power to establish, care for, control, supervise, improve, operate and maintaina public camp or camps anywhere within the state, and to that end may make, promulgate and enforce any reasonable rules and regulations in reference to such campsand make such charges for the use thereof as may be deemed expedient."  (Emphasis supplied)

            The initial rule when construing a statute is to ascertain and give effect to legislative intent.  Graffell v. Honeysuckle, 30 Wn. (2d) 390.  "A second rule, just as fundamental, is that when the intent of the legislature is clear from the reading of the statute, there is no necessity for construction."  Public Hospital District No. 2 of Okanogan County v. The Taxpayers of Public Hospital District No. 2 of Okanogan County, 44 Wn. (2d) 623.

            This statute specifically states that a county may impose charges for the use of public camps established by the county through its board of county commissioners.  The category of "public camps" is the only one of the several types of recreational facilities so mentioned, although parks and other categories are generally covered within the statute.  It would therefore seem that the legislature did not intend that counties should have the specific authority to impose charges on the users of parks.

            A board of county commissioners has only those powers conferred upon it by the Constitution and statutes of the state, or such as may arise by necessary implication from an express power.  State ex rel. Taylor v. Superior Court of King County, 2 Wn. (2d) 575;State ex rel. Becker v. Wiley, 16 Wn. (2d) 340;State ex rel. King County v. Superior Court for King County, 33 Wn. (2d) 76.

            As stated above, no specific authority exists for a board of county commissioners to impose charges for admission, or for other purposes, upon the users of county parks.  Furthermore, it cannot be implied from the  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] statutory statement that charges may be imposed upon users of public camps, that a board of commissioners has the authority to charge the public for the use of county parks.

            We have taken into consideration RCW 36.68.070, which states that "miscellaneous revenues derived from the operation of (county) parks" shall be put into a county park and recreation fund following its establishment.  There is no indication within this section which tends to show any legislative design to determine from what source or sources the "miscellaneous revenues" should be forthcoming.  Thus, there can be no implication that charges for admission were to be included therein.

            It is our opinion that a board of county commissioners may not impose a charge for admission upon the users of county parks.

Yours very truly,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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