My husband served for five years in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War. I worked for the Department of Defense as a teacher of the children of U.S. military families from 1966-1967 on Okinawa. We both have great respect for those serving in the military and recognize their need for training. I am dismayed and perplexed, however, at the recent energetic push to open our Washington State Parks to Navy SEAL underwater-to-land assault practice. For this training on Whidbey Island, the Navy wants to use the state parks at South Whidbey, Fort Casey, Fort Ebey and Deception Pass.
On the afternoon and evening of May 4, the Navy hosted a public meeting concerning the proposed use of Washington State Parks for the training of Navy SEALs. In the Oak Harbor School Board meeting room, a gathering of training advocates stood in twos and threes at displays of charts and photographs. The information was meticulously prepared and presented by the friendly military and civilian personnel, but I was not persuaded of the Navy’s need to use our state parks for the SEALs sea-to-land assault practice.
Our Washington State Parks are treasured as places of relaxation and peace for family activities such as picnics and trail walking. Knowing that Navy Seals in full battle gear are crawling up on the beaches and occupying land sites will change that sense of peace. The Navy’s counter argument “you’ll never know they are there” is not reassuring. Nor is it comforting that training in a given park “would only be a few times a year.” This is the current estimate and subject to change.
The state parks are not the only possible training locations. The Navy currently owns miles of coastline and thousands of acres of land in Washington. Military training sites should be located there. We civilians respectfully obey the “No Trespassing” signs on military property. We ask that our parks are equally respected as places set apart for recreational enjoyment.
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission will decide if this SEALs training will be allowed. The most important action you can take is to contact the commission at Commission@parks.wa.gov and provide them with your opinion.
Comments can also be emailed to the U.S. Navy at firstname.lastname@example.org until May 18.