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Blackwater Training Meeting

Updated: Monday, June 23 2014, 09:19 AM CDT
Around 200 people showed up to the Bagdad Community Center Thursday evening to hear Eglin Air Force Base officials explain how they'd like to use Blacwater River State Park for training grounds.

The Air Force is finishing up a study to decide exactly what training activities they might conduct in the area, as well as in what parts of the park those activities would be allowed.

Mike Spaits, Eglin's environmental public affairs officer, said "When we go through this process, at the end, a decision will be made. The decision by the Air Force is which actions, if any, to apply to the Forest Service, and ask them can we do this in the forest."

The Air Force is finishing up an environmental impact study which looks at how the parks and forest would be affected by different training exercises. Some training is limited; for instance, no live ammunition or construction will take place in the park. But training on small vehicles, like ATV's or smaller aircract, could take place, and simulated rounds like blanks or paintballs could be fired. There are rules Eglin would have to follow as well, like avoiding areas where endangered animals are present. With that study nearly completed, the final element is adding comments and concerns from the public. That's why they held Thursday's meeting.

Linda Carver showed up to protest. "Unless they say 'absolutely, we will not go into Blackwater with our military activities,' they will not change my mind."

There were some who showed up in support, or with questions, for Eglin.

Helen Wigersma from the Florida Trails Associtiaton said "Our chapter accepts that many of the concerns initially raised have been addressed in an appropriate manner. However, there are some items that we feel have either not been adequatly addressed, or need to have a specific mitigation action included."

But most were there to protest Eglin's ideas.

Anthony Hailey said "Blackwater right now is for the public around here, and we don't have a lot left. If they move into there, they're going to have to do what they normally have to do at any government controlled facility. They're going to have to restrict the citizens of this area."

When Eglin officials are done ith their studies they'll pass their requests off to the Florida State Park Services, who will tell them what they are and are not allowed to do in the forests and parks.
Blackwater Training Meeting

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