The Navy has made a proposal to conduct Navy SEAL training in state parks along the Puget Sound coastline, including four state parks on Whidbey Island. I am concerned that this proposal involves soldiers in combat gear involved in insertion, extraction, unmanned underwater vehicles, over-the-beach reconnaissance and unmanned aircraft systems. These training operations risk harming plant, bird and animal habitats, and diminish the sense of spiritual sanctuary people have always found in our parks.
Our world now has 7.4 billion people. And as our population continues to grow here on Whidbey there is an increasing need for public refuges, like state parks, where people can enjoy recreational activities and experience solitude. Many of us deepen our connection with a Higher Power by spending time outside in the natural world, so our state parks serve, in part, as natural sanctuaries where we go not only to fish and picnic, but to relieve stress, meditate and commune with nature.
It is said that if Europe’s crowning glory is its cathedrals, the United States crowning glory is its many public parks. And the state parks on Whidbey are the spiritual heart of our island. We experience awe beneath the tall trees at South Whidbey, hold family birthdays and reunions at Fort Casey, grieve and spread ashes at Fort Ebey and find hope and inspiration in the wide vistas of Deception Pass. And I am concerned that having Navy SEALs practicing warfare will diminish the sense of the sacred many currently find in our parks.
Washington State Parks has access to only 5 percent of the total marine shoreline in the state. While the Navy has access to 29, 819,492 acres of Department of Defense lands in the U.S. including 438,938 acres in Washington and over 39 miles of Washington coastline. So, there is already a wide diversity of places available for military personnel to be trained.
We live in a beautiful place and are custodians of a precious natural legacy we want to pass on to our grandchildren. Concerns about SEAL training in state parks can be shared with Navy personnel Thursday, May 4, 5-8 p.m., at the Oak Harbor School District’s administrative office, ASC Board Room, located at 350 S. Oak Harbor St. Comments can also be emailed to email@example.com.