MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — The U.S. Navy has been granted permission to conduct special operations training at some Washington state parks, with mitigation requirements specific to each park, officials said.
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission voted 4-3 on Thursday in favor of the training, The Skagit Valley Herald reported Thursday. The seven-member commission is set to review its decision after 90 days.
The Navy will also undergo post-training reports so staff at the parks can analyze the routes used to identify any environmental impacts or interaction with the public, officials said.
“I personally believe it is possible for park visitors and Navy training to coexist under the proposed plan,” commissioner Steve Milner said before casting the tie-breaking vote that approved the training.
Commissioners Ken Bounds, Sophia Danenberg and Diana Perez voted against the proposal, saying they generally support the military, but do not believe public lands are a good place for military training.
Some residents during the public comment period spoke against the plan because Deception Pass State Park may be used, where SEALs would move from water to land and scale rock walls at the park’s Rosario Beach in Skagit County and near North Beach in Island County.
The park “has many fragile and sensitive features like wetlands, rocky bluffs, wildflowers, kelp beds, tide pools, old growth,” said Laurie Sherman, who has lived next to the park in Skagit County for 33 years. “Let’s not open the door to training in state parks.”
The Navy has said its rock climbing in Deception Pass State Park would use existing anchors in some places and removable climbing gear in others and “would not leave a trace.”
Some commissioners emphasized the training might occur on 6 percent or less of state park land and during low-visitation nighttime hours where interactions are unlikely.
“I want our men and women in uniform to be the best trained in the world, and if we can safely make a small sliver of our property available for that purpose, then that’s what we should do,” Commissioner Mark Brown said.
Special operations personnel have been using the Pacific Northwest for training for decades and currently have authorization to use portions of five state parks in the region, military officials said. Western Washington state has a challenging marine water environment.