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AGO 1963 No. 26 - May 28, 1963
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


(1) The state parks and recreation commission is vested with the statutory authority to accept donated property within municipal boundaries for state park purposes.

(2) Same:  The state parks and recreation commission may expend park funds for the maintenance and operation of such donated property.

                                                              - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                   May 28, 1963

Honorable Clayton E. Anderson
Director of State Parks
State Parks and Recreation Commission
522 South Franklin Street
Olympia, Washington

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 63-64 No. 26

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you requested the opinion of this office on two questions concerning the administrative authority of the state parks and recreation commission which we paraphrase as follows:

            1. Does the state parks and recreation commission have power to accept a donation of property, for state park purposes, situated within municipal boundaries?

            2. May the commission expend state park funds for the maintenance and operation of such property?

            We answer your questions in the affirmative.


            The legislature has expressly vested authority in the state parks and recreation commission to accept donations of land for park purposes and to manage and control the donated land after its acquisition.  Section 2, chapter 113, Laws of 1913, RCW 43.51.070.  That statute provides as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "The commission may receive and accept donations of lands for state park purposes, and shall have the management and control of all lands so acquired.  It may from time to time recommend to the legislature the acquisition of lands for park purposes by purchase or condemnation."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            The statute above quoted contains no limiting language; it makes no distinction between lands located within or without municipal boundaries.  The legislature, desiring to take advantage of donations of property to the state by the public-spirited persons, designated the state parks and recreation commission as the agency to receive and accept such lands, and further, entrusted the care of such property to that commission.

            The above quoted statute constitutes a sufficient grant of authority for the state parks and recreation commission to accept donated property unless it is somehow limited by other provisions of the law.  In this connection it is necessary to analyze RCW 43.51.040 (8) and 43.51.060 (9), because we have previously given the advice that those statutes contain limitations upon the commission's power to acquire property within municipal boundaries.  AGO 49-51, 355 [[to Howard Bargreen, State Representative on October 3, 1950]]; AGO 49-51, 307 [[to Arthur R. Paulsen, State Representative on July 21, 1950]].

            The first statute, RCW 43.51.040 (8) provides:

            "The commission shall:

            ". . .

            "(8) Cooperate with the United States, or any county or city of this state, in any matter pertaining to the acquisition for park and parkway purposes of any area not within the limits of any city, and in the care, control, or supervision of any park or parkway, and enter into contracts in writing to that end. . . ."

            It is significant that the above statute is divided into two clauses and that the negative, "any area not within," is contained in the first clause and the affirmative, "any," is contained in the second clause.  A fair reading of that statute would limit the negative to the first clause only, thus prohibiting the state parks and recreation commission from cooperating with the United States or any county or city in acquiring property for park and parkway purposes.  However, it would not prohibit the commission from cooperating in the care,  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] control or supervision of a park or parkway since the unlimited affirmative clause grants that power.

            In any event, the statute only prohibits the commission from cooperating with a city, the United States or any county in acquiring property within municipal boundaries.  It does not prohibit the commission from acquiring property inside municipal boundaries by donation.

            The second statute, RCW 43.51.060 (9), provides:

            "The commission may:

            ". . .

            "(9) Without being limited to the powers hereinbefore enumerated, the commission shall have such other powers as in the judgment of a majority of its members are deemed necessary to effectuate the purposes of this chapter:  Provided, That the commission shall not have power to supervise directly andlocal park or recreation district, and no funds shall be made available for such purpose."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            That statute contains a general grant of police power to the state parks and recreation commission.  The section, in a proviso, places one limitation on that general grant, i.e., it prohibits "direct" supervision of any "local park or recreationdistrict."  Our prior opinions did not take into consideration the distinction between a local park district, (chapters 35.61 and 36.69 RCW) and other property which may be held for park purposes whether or not it is within municipal boundaries.

            A local park or recreation district is a governmental unit organized for the particular purpose of administering a park system for interested persons in a particular geographical area and for all or at least some purposes may be classified as a municipal corporation.  See, RCW 35.61.040; also,Columbia Irr. District v. Benton County, 149 Wash. 234, 270 Pac. 813 (1928).  RCW 43.51.060 (9), above quoted, does not prohibit supervision of a park within municipal boundaries but only prohibits the direct supervision of the governmental agency, the local district.

            We conclude that RCW 43.51.040 (8) and 43.51.060 (9) should be limited to their wording, and do not prohibit the state parks and recreation commission from acquiring property within municipal boundaries by donation.  They prohibit the commission from (1) using state money in cooperation with certain other agencies in acquiring parks, and  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] (2) supervising a separate entity called a local park or recreation district.  In so far as AGO 49-51 No. 307 conflicts with the views expressed herein, it is hereby overruled.

            The state parks and recreation commission is vested with authority under RCW 43.51.070 to accept property donated, for state park purposes, within municipal boundaries and may expend state park funds for the maintenance and operation of such donated property.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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