Rather than telling my story, I'll just post my letter to the court:
I'll admit I slightly played dumb here, because I had recently read the pass is required on all DNR lands, but the source wasn't authoritative, and I've yet to see a satisfying explanation of the scope of the project from an official source. Anyway, I honestly didn't know I was on DNR land. Still don't know what is and isn't, but that's a moot issue for now, as I'll just display my pass everywhere in WA for the next year.re: Infraction, non-traffic (Discover Pass), Citation 0123456
Enclosed please find proof of Discover Pass purchase and my check for $59, a payment option described at discoverpass.wa.gov.
In addition, I am requesting mitigation. Considering the amount of the penalty and the current uncertainty surrounding court proceedings (i.e. covid), I'm sure you'll agree it would be absurd for me to request a mitigation hearing. Please accept this letter in lieu of a hearing, and I'll accept your judgement.
It is my contention that the scope of the Discover Pass program is not clearly described or explained to the public. Specifically:
Through the years, I've seen countless signs at trailheads indicating that a Discover Pass is required, while other sites are not signed. I have always assumed that a Discover Pass is required only at signed sites. On the day of my citation, I explained to an officer (possibly the citing officer; I'm not sure) that there was no sign indicating I was at a Discover Pass site. The officer responded (somewhat sarcastically, I thought) that the state can't be expected to post signs on every tree. He's right, of course. But other opportunities abound to describe the scope of the program:
· The state maintains .gov web pages for select popular trailheads. These pages don't consistently indicate a Discover Pass is required.
· At sites where Discover Pass signs are posted, those signs could (should) indicate the scope of the Discover Pass program, and explain that unsigned sites also require a Discover Pass.
· In 2017 I was cited for failure to display a Discover Pass at a poorly-signed site in Skamania County. I submitted the $99 penalty along with proof of Discover Pass payment, and explained the circumstances. Not only did the court retain all of my payment (without the customary reduction to $59), I was not informed why. This would have been the natural opportunity to inform me that a Discover Pass is required at unsigned locations as well.
· Curiously, I had a Discover Pass experience just a few days prior to my citation. I returned to my car, at an unsigned site, to find a small Discover Pass flier on my windshield. I didn't know what to make of this. I wondered, was it a warning? Was it an encouragement to park only at signed sites? Was I too close to a trailhead, and therefore considered to be within the trailhead enforcement zone? Or was it simply promotional material? I now realize that I was in violation. It's unfortunate that this wasn't clearly communicated.
· The Discover Pass website isn't particularly helpful. It states that the pass grants access to state recreation lands, but doesn't clarify what a state recreation site is, nor does it dispel the popularly-held notion that the Discover Pass is required only at signed sites.
I recognize it would be outside the scope of a Clark Co District Judge to find fault with the administration of the Discover Pass program, but I hope you'll agree that a recreational user acting in good faith could sincerely wish to comply, while inadvertently failing to do so. Could you be swayed to return or destroy my $59 check?
edit: Forgot to mention, I got a letter from the court. They'll retain $49 and mail me a check for $10. Wow.