PORT ANGELES – The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission is considering a request by the US Navy to expand the scope of SEAL training to include 29 State parks all around the Puget Sound and the Olympic Coast.

The non-profit organization Sound Defense Alliance would like to stop the expansion of the program and has mounted a write-in campaign among its members.

The Navy has had an agreement with the State Parks Commission to conduct nightime training exercises in 5 shoreline parks since 2015, and as recently as last year conducted them near Port Townsend and around the shores of Discovery Bay.

The training consists of Navy SEALS diving and swimming, moving on foot over beaches and high angle climbing, all while attempting to go undetected.

Here’s Navy spokeswoman Sheila Murray.

“When Special Ops comes here to train, this is a more advanced level training than when they initially started out. They start out over in Hawaii where the water is warm, and the beaches are sandy, you know, and they kind of get a feel for the expectations. When they come here, the water is cold, and and it’s rocky. It’s a much different environment. And what we’re trying to do is have them trained so they’re not seen.”

The Navy’s request to expand the program to 29 parks was actually made in 2018. So far, they’ve submitted and Environmental Impact Report but, according to Washington State Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Anna Gill, the Parks Commission is still waiting for the completed application.

“Going forward, once we receive an application, we’re going to certainly review that application and, you know, the public involvement is a key piece to this. And we’re going to be collecting, in fact, we already have been collecting, some of the comments that we have been getting. We intend to provide a report to the Commission at an upcoming Commission meeting and then, at the next meeting after that, we would likely have this before the Commission for a decision and provide an opportunity for people to to speak to it in person to the Commission.”

As far as objections to the SEAL training, the Sound Defense Alliance said in a statement released this week that combining civilian and military activities in the same park is a recipe for misunderstanding and possible tragedy.

They point out that the use of firearms is not permitted by State Park rules, and ask why the Navy gets to use simulated weapons that look identical to the real thing?

They also bring up the subject of liability in the event of property damages or a wrongful death claim.

Photo: Eric S. Logsdon/U.S. Navy

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