Washington state sued for allowing military training in state parks

Washington State Parks including Curlew Lake State Park will close in the event of a shutdown. (Image: Washington State Parks & Recreation Commission)

WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. — The Whidbey Environment Action Network (WEAN) filed a lawsuit Monday against the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission seeking to overturn a Jan. 28 decision to allow Navy SEALs to train and conduct undercover surveillance on unknowing park visitors.

The Jan. 28 decision passed by a narrow 4-3 vote, allowing the U.S. Navy access to 28 coastal state parks in the Puget Sound, the Straits of Juan de Fuca and the outer Washington coast.

The training involves Navy SEALs landing on shorelines, climbing upland and conducting covert surveillance of plainclothes military personnel interacting with unknowing park visitors.

If a park visitor gets too close to a SEAL, military personnel will try to discourage the park visitor from being in the area. The decision also allows the Navy to prevent boaters from using the park waterfronts.

“Despite overwhelming public opposition, the commission approved this grossly incompatible use,” said Steve Erickson, a lawyer for the WEAN. “Allowing military training in state parks is terrible policy. It’s also illegal.”

A growing group of people opposed to the war training have organized into a coalition, Not in Our Parks. They have called for a statewide Day of Action on Saturday, March 13 to protest the decision.

Their website, notinourparks.org, contains information and resources, including a history of the dangers of military training in Washington state parks.