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Judge: Navy SEALs can’t use Washington parks for training

UPDATED: Fri., April 1, 2022

Associated Press

Associated Press

OLYMPIA – A judge has ruled that the Navy SEALs won’t be able to use Washington State Parks as training grounds.

In January 2021, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission voted 4-3 to approve the Navy’s proposal to use up to 28 parks for training purposes for the elite units, where SEALs would emerge from the water under the cover of darkness and disappear into the environment.

The Northwest News Network reports the decision rankled many recreationalists, who said during public comments they would avoid these areas for fear that SEALs would watch them without the knowledge or consent of visitors.

On Friday, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon said the commission’s decision was illegal and outside its purview, which includes the protection and enhancement of parks.

In addition, Dixon ruled the commission violated the State Environmental Policy Act by not considering fully how the trainings could deter visitors.

Opponents of the decision often said the presence of out-of-sight SEAL trainees would incite a “creepiness factor,” removing a sense of calm often found in nature.

Dixon said he couldn’t come up with a better legal term than that.

“It is creepy,” he said.

In earlier public hearings, Navy officials said Washington’s natural landscapes provide critical cold water training for SEALs. Washington’s coastlines and currents pose challenges to SEAL trainees that are difficult to find elsewhere, said Warrant Officer Esteban Alvarado at a Nov. 19, 2020, public meeting, calling the region a critical component in training exercises.

The judge’s decision could be appealed.

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