Last week, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission received the U.S. Navy’s application to conduct special operations training exercises in 29 western Washington state parks, including three in Kitsap County.
The three parks in Kitsap County that were included in the Navy’s application were Illahee State Park, Manchester State Park and Scenic Beach State Park. An estimated 75 acres would be utilized at Illahee State Park, as well as an estimated 111 acres at Manchester State Park and an estimated 121 acres at Scenic Beach State Park.
Proposed Navy training activities at these three state parks include launch and recovery, insertion and extraction, diver/swimmer, over-the-beach as well as surveillance and reconnaissance, according to the Navy’s application. The training would be conducted in blocks, defined as a two-to-eight week periods where up to 84 Naval special operations trainees and support personnel participate in cold water maritime and land-based training.
Training would range between two and 72 hours depending on the activity. Cycles are annual during the time frames of January through May and June through November. For this training, the three parks would be used no more than three to 36 times a year, the application states. Most training would occur during the day but could be conducted overnight.
“The Navy is using other land, both Federal and Privately owned, however State Parks land provides essential elements such as variability in topography, bathymetry, and climate that are not sufficiently available through use of these other properties,” the Navy stated in its application. “Without the State Parks lands the entirety of necessary training is unable to be accomplished.”
The Navy currently has a Right of Entry permit that allows it to conduct similar trainings in five Puget Sound area state parks, which includes Illahee State Park. That five-year permit expires May 1.
Washington State Parks & Recreation staff is currently reviewing the application and will provide a report to the commission at its upcoming meeting March 12, in Chelan. Public comment will be taken at the meeting. The public will also have an opportunity to provide comment at a special public meeting Wednesday, May 6, at Fort Warden Historical Park in Port Townsend.
The commission is expected to make a decision on the application at a regularly scheduled meeting this spring or summer.