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Vote will decide if Navy SEALs can have expanded access to Washington state parks

Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island is one of the state parks the Navy would like to use for special operations training.
Jonathan Elderfield
The Associated Press file
Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island is one of the state parks the Navy would like to use for special operations training.

This week the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission is expected to decide the fate of a Navy proposal to use up to 28 state coastal parks to help train special operations SEALs on how to be undetectable.

The Navy held a five-year permit to use five state parks that expired in 2020, and the state commission is scheduled to vote Thursday on whether to approve a five-year permit for the expanded access.

The Seattle Times reports the SEALs training for the special operations forces in state parks is controversial, as these exercises put the elite Special Operations forces in some of the state’s most special outdoor places. Some people are opposed to what they view as a kind of militarization of state parks and are uneasy about the surveillance that is part of the exercise.

Navy officials say their request reflects the imperatives of finding more diverse and challenging areas to conduct important training that is not intended to be visible to visitors and will not interfere with the public’s use of the parks.

The training involves submersible vessels that will navigate through offshore waters, and unarmed SEAL team trainees — in groups of six to eight — who will then make their way to shore, typically under the cover of darkness. Once on land, they will conceal themselves for 24 to 48 hours to conduct surveillance, then depart by water.

Navy SEALs have been training in state parks for years, and in 2015 formalized that use with a permit that gave permission for SEALs to train at Blake Island, Fort Flagler, Illahee, Mystery Bay and Scenic Beach state parks.

The 28 state parks where the Navy wants to expand access are Blake Island, Cama Beach, Camano Island, Cape Disappointment, Deception Pass, Dosewallips, Fort Casey, Fort Columbia, Fort Ebey, Fort Flagler, Fort Townsend, Fort Worden, Grayland Beach, Hope Island, Illahee, Joseph Whidbey, Leadbetter Point, Manchester, Mystery Bay, Pacific Pines, Scenic Beach, Sequim Bay, Shine Tidelands, Skagit Island Marine, South Whidbey, Triton Cove, Twin Harbors and Westport Light.

KNKX contributed to this report.

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