- The Washington Times - Monday, February 1, 2021

Navy special operations forces soon will have a new training ground: state parks in Washington.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission late last week approved a Pentagon request to conduct some training missions at parks across the state. The Navy initially was eyeing 28 Washington state parks, but officials cut that number down and said they will permit missions at “several” parks, approving each request on a case-by-case basis.

Such training missions are somewhat unusual for the U.S. military. The request divided the seven-member Parks and Recreation Commission, which approved the request in a 4-3 vote last Thursday evening.

“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,” Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mark Brown said, as quoted by The Associated Press.

One of the training missions reportedly would see Navy SEALs approach the area of Deception Pass State Park from the water and ultimately scale rock walls at Rosario Beach.

In approving the plan, Washington state officials insisted on a host of conditions. They asked military officials for “more robust protection measures for plant species and marine and terrestrial animals,” according to a fact sheet on the commission website.

Officials also limited training to nighttime hours when the parks are closed. The approval also calls for the Navy to notify the commission after all operations and to conduct a site review with commission staff afterward.

“State Parks staff will begin to issue permits in the next few weeks on a park-by-park basis, after applying the mitigating conditions and site criteria,” the commission said in a statement. “The mitigated conditions and criteria will ultimately determine which specific parks are permitted.”

Commissioners believe the Navy training will take place on 6% or less of state parkland.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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