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Eglin petitions to train at Blackwater


Eglin Airforce base wants to use Blackwater River State Park for military training exercises.

People got to weigh in on the idea last night at the Milton Community Center. Channel Three's Jenise Fernandez explains the Air Force's plans, and why it has some concerned.

Patricia Edmisten often travels from Pensacola to Blackwater River State Forest to canoe. She enjoys the serenity of the forest. She worries the military training will disrupt that peace.

"We need our refuge..provides that for us."

Dozens of people spoke out against the plans to use the forest as training ground. One speaker asked the audience to stand up if they were against this proposal abd nore than half the room stood.

"We can want to support our military, this treasure be preserved."

Mike Penland with the Pentagon says the training will have "low to no" impact on the environment and wont get in the way of people using the forest for recreational purposes. The training would include small group non-hazardous trainings, walking through the forest using radios to communicate with airplanes, and helicopters dropping off and picking people up.

"We need to have relief valves. Going to the forest is really good," said Mike Penland, Chief of Operational Encroachment Manager, Pentagon

And any type of training they want to do, has to go through the florida forest service first. The forest service will have the final say.

"And we've known that from the beginning. That's always been our going in position, cannot do."

But still people are worried. Edmisten hopes the Florida Forest Service and Eglin Airforce take the public's comments into consideration..

"I'm afraid they've run into some or a lot of resistance here this evening."

The next step is for the Air Force to complete an environmental impact study. They're hoping to have that done by next year.