State: No decision yet on GRASI

State Forester Jim Karels. Photo available for purchase

State Forester Jim Karels.

Lois Swoboda
Published: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 15:17 PM.

Nobody stood up in support of proposed military use of Tate’s Hell State Forest during a town hall meeting held in Apalachicola on Dec. 12.

The meeting was organized by the Florida Forest Service in partnership with the Air Force but the only uniforms in evidence were worn by clean cut foresters.

The Air Force sent two civilian representatives, Mike Penland, deputy director for range and airspace sustainment at Eglin Air Force Base, and John Mathers, project director for Gulf Regional Airspace Strategic Planning (GRASI).

People began trickling into the meeting room 20 minutes before the scheduled time, 6 p.m. When the meeting began, there were 43 participants present, not counting forest service and Air Force staff.

By the break, about 60 were present, considerably fewer than the 200 who turned up in August for an Air Force scoping meeting, but most of them still as adamant the Air Force was not welcome in the forest.

The meeting was opened by Ken Weber, the state forest’s first manager. “We don’t often get people together like this to discuss the forest so I just want to thank you for turning out tonight,” he told the crowd.

Weber said no decision had been made about military use of the forest. He said the town hall meeting was to discuss a memo of understanding that might lead to a memo of agreement.

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