WASHINGTON STATE – Navy SEALs have been forced to halt training at Washington state parks while a legal battle over their use winds its way through the court system.
The Navy has used Washington state coastal parks for over 30 years for SEAL cold water training and other special operations exercises. Leaders say the area offers the perfect environment to simulate what the special forces may encounter on difficult operations overseas, the New York Post reported.
However, lawyers for the Whidbey Environmental Action Network don’t seem to care about operational readiness.
“It is difficult to find peace in the woods when armed frogmen might be lurking behind every tree,” attorneys for the group argued in a legal brief last month, as they are the driving force behind the lawsuit against the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.
Navy spokesman Joe Overton said the area uniquely facilitates SEAL training.
“This area provides a unique environment of cold water, extreme tidal changes, multi-variant currents, low visibility, complex underwater terrain, climate and rigorous land terrain, which provides an advanced training environment,” Overton told Coffee or Die Magazine.
Sadly, the Navy’s use of Washington shoreline has also come under fire from local residents who claim to be concerned about the physiological and environmental impact of SEALs training in the parks.
“I do not care to catch a glimpse of apparently armed men skulking around and I DEFINITELY do not want to risk having my young grandchildren see such a sight,” a resident wrote to state regulators when public comments were solicited during the state’s attempt to renew its agreement with the Navy.
Other residents expressed similar concerns, saying the area should be a place where people can relax.
“In these days of great division in our civil society, we don’t need stealthy men in camo uniforms toting toy guns around our State and County Parks,” another commenter said. “People frequent parks to escape tension, not to encounter more. Keep the Navy commando training out of our parks!”
With a barrage of complaints, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission voted 4-3 to scale back training that would limit where and what time SEALs could train, which prompted the lawsuit to block the use of state parks entirely, according to the Post.
The lawsuit claims the training will discourage residents from using the parks due to fears of “encountering the proposed war games or being spied upon by Navy personnel.”
The Navy says SEAL training has not interfered with visitors in the area, and notes there is no use of live-fire ammunition or explosive devices while training in the parks.
Nevertheless, that reassurance has not persuaded residents who say the Navy should use the 46 miles of Washington shoreline already under its control.
However, the Navy said the area under their jurisdiction does not offer as much realism during SEAL training.
“Although there are several Navy properties in the area, they do not provide the full range of environments needed for this training to be as realistic as possible,” Overton said.