(The Center Square) – A Thurston County Superior Court judge has ruled that Navy SEALS are not allowed to use Washington state’s parks for their training exercises.
A lower court had allowed training to proceed.
Judge James Dixon’s April 4 ruling reversed that earlier judgment, thereby halting all military training on park grounds.
The conflict began after the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission voted 4-3 to approve a Navy proposal to use over 20 parks for training purposes in January 2021.
This decision angered many recreationists who complained about feeling unsafe, and potentially seeing SEALS emerge from the water in darkness, reported NW News.
The Navy countered that SEAL training does not interfere with visitors, and noted that there was no use of live-fire ammunition or explosive devices in park trainings.
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Dixon ruled that the commission’s decision was illegal and outside its purview, which is the protection and enhancement of parks.
He also ruled that the commission violated the State Environmental Policy Act by not considering how these trainings could deter visitors.
The use of Washington parks by the Navy was not a new development. The Navy has used Washington state parks for more than 30 years, conducting cold water training and other special operations exercises in the state’s coastal areas.
Navy spokesmen say the areas offer an advanced training environment to simulate what may be encountered on difficult operations overseas. The dispute centered primarily on parks near Washington’s Puget Sound and along the state’s southwestern coastline.
The Navy held a five-year permit to use five state parks that expired in 2020.
In attempting to renew this agreement with the state, the Navy tried to expand the number of parks used for training. This was met with opposition from local residents and park users, which culminated in a lawsuit by the Whidbey Environmental Action Network, and Dixon’s eviction notice.
The judge’s decision can still be appealed.