Navy SEALs No Longer Using Washington State Parks for Training Amid Lawsuit

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Reporter
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
January 27, 2022 Updated: January 27, 2022

U.S. Navy SEALs will not be permitted to train in Washington state parks, pending a lawsuit that arose after residents raised concerns over seeing “armed men.”

The decision comes after attorneys for the Whidbey Environmental Action Network, who filed a lawsuit against the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission in March 2021, argued in a legal brief last month that residents may feel on edge if Navy SEALs continue to use parks for training.

“It is difficult to find peace in the woods when armed frogmen might be lurking behind every tree,” they wrote, according to Coffee or Die magazine.

State parkland for military training had been used by the Navy since 2015 after the approval of a right-of-entry permit. That agreement to use five state parks expired in 2020, and when the Navy attempted to renew the contract, it asked to increase the number of state parks SEALs could train in to 28.

In response, local residents complained about the presence of the military in the areas.

“I object to the Navy’s proposal to use our State Parks for training. There are serious problems with the proposal. Allowing the Navy to use our State Parks for training would further militarize our society, taking over a large number of parks (29) for military training,” a resident wrote to state regulators while the Navy and the state sought to renew its agreement.

“We use our parks for peace, solitude, getting back to nature, getting in tune with our family and ourselves. There is no need to use these spaces. Stop, just stop. This is a terrible idea,” the resident wrote during the public comment period (pdf).

“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 wrote. “People frequent parks to escape tension, not to encounter more. Keep the Navy commando training out of our parks!”

Navy spokesman Joe Overton told Coffee or Die that the areas provide an environment that aids military 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 said.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission then voted to reduce the number of hours that Navy SEALs could train, and said some areas were off-limits.

The Whidbey Environmental Action Network’s March 2021 lawsuit cites residents’ fears, stating that they may avoid parks in the state in case they encounter “the proposed war games or being spied upon by Navy personnel.”

A hearing in the case has been scheduled for April 1 in Thurston County Superior Court.

The Epoch Times has reached out to the U.S. Navy for comment.

Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.