washington state parks logoOLYMPIA – June 22, 2023 – The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission (Parks) asks everyone who is planning a Fourth of July celebration at a park or on the beach to be safe and protect their friends, neighbors, public lands and wildlife.  

Parks sees a dramatic increase in visitation during Independence Day celebrations, particularly on its beaches. The increase in traffic also increases the amount of trash left behind. Last year, volunteers collected more than 35,000 pounds of garbage from ocean beaches during Parks’ annual July 5 beach cleanup. That’s equivalent to the combined weight of four adult orca whales.

To reduce the amount of trash left behind, it is important that visitors plan ahead, follow all beach safety rules and pack out everything they pack in. Any litter left behind on the beach threatens the safety and future of beach wildlife and can be unsafe for people and pets.  

Consuming or getting entangled in pieces of trash can disrupt an animal’s ability to hunt, escape predators or provide for their young. Trash also threatens the safety of pets who are at risk of hurting themselves or ingesting it. High tides the night of July 4 to the morning of July 5 can cause litter to wash out into the ocean, harming marine animals as well. 

Given the threat that trash poses to everyone on the beach, it is crucial for everyone to do their part and pick up all their trash. 

Parks beach safety rules

Fireworks are illegal on all state park lands, including the beaches in front of state parks. Discharging fireworks on state park lands can result in a $99 ticket.  

Although it is legal to drive onto some areas of the beach, where allowed, all rules of the road apply. Due to increased traffic and people on the beach during holiday weekends, drivers are encouraged to be hyper-vigilant, drive slowly and watch out for children and pets.

Please remember:

  • The beach speed limit is 25 mph, and pedestrians and horses are always granted the right of way. When people gather on the beach, it’s time to slow down.
  • Only drive on the hard-packed sand. We strongly recommend finding a nearby paved parking lot and walking to the beach to avoid getting stuck in the sand.
  • No parking is permitted along the entry to beach access points. Please obey all posted no parking signs. Keep beach and beach approach roads clear. Congestion at access points limits the response-ability for emergency vehicles.
  • Cars parked below the high tide line may get stuck or washed out to sea. Tow support will be limited or unavailable.
  • It is always illegal to use drugs or alcohol and get behind the wheel. Open container laws still apply to Washington beaches. Keep safety belts buckled when moving.

Visitors should be mindful and stay out of areas on the beach designated to protect wildlife and marine habitat. Additionally, campfires must be at least 100 feet from the dunes, no more than four feet in diameter and no more than four feet high. No fires are allowed on any shellfish beds.

July 4 & 5 beach cleanup  

In partnership with Washington CoastSavers, Parks puts on three beach cleanup volunteer events a year, including a cleanup on July 4 and 5. Visit CoastSavers.org to view a list of participating beaches and where to check in on the day of the event. Pre-registration is not necessary – just show up and help.  

Volunteers should dress for variable weather conditions, wear sturdy footwear and pack a lunch with plenty of water. Upon check-in, participants will receive supplies to help them pick up debris; however, volunteers are encouraged to bring reusable gloves. The check-in station also serves as the dumpster location for marine debris after collection. 

Check for park closures, alerts and burn bans before heading out. For those visiting a state park, a Discover Pass is required for vehicle access.