State commission amends Navy park usage approval

Last week’s meeting was called to clarify the commission’s intent about the amendment.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission met Feb. 11 to clarify and amend its previous decision to allow the U.S. Navy to covertly train in state parks, including Deception Pass State Park.

On Jan. 28, the commission approved the Navy’s five-year proposal to conduct training in 28 state parks, although it added restrictions that parks staff said would likely decrease the number of state parks that could be used to just 16 or 17.

Permits will be approved on a park-by-park basis; the commission’s approval meant that the Navy could keep moving forward with its proposal under the conditions it set.

An amendment during the Jan. 28 meeting said the Navy’s training was restricted to the time period outside of when daytime visitors would normally be allowed in a state park. It also stipulated that the state parks director would make a presentation nine months after the first permit had been issued to review how the Navy’s usage was going and any “interactions and issues” between the public and Navy personnel.

Last week’s meeting was called to clarify the commission’s intent about the amendment.

Apparently the wording of the amendment appeared to require “that after a nine-month trial period, further Commission action would be required to lift the restriction on training during daylight hours,” according to a staff report.

The commissioners, however, indicated that the intent of the amendment was to give the state parks director the authority to “make an independent evaluation and decision to permit training activities during daylight hours at the end of the nine-month review period,” according to the staff report.

The modified amendment reflects that intent.

Whidbey Environmental Action Network criticized the commission for the amendment, claiming that the Navy’s park usage could be expanded without public input.

“Now, they’ve decided the critical decision of whether the war games can be conducted both day and night in the parks will be made with no public notice or input at all,” said WEAN member Steve Erickson.

The environmental group also took issue with the fact that the decision would be left to the state parks director because the current director, Don Hoch, is retiring next month and a replacement has not been announced.

The commission conducted candidate interviews on Feb. 5 and 6 during executive sessions, which are closed to the public by law.

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