Soon after the proposal was announced this spring, hikers, bird watchers and ecologists launched an impassioned campaign to conserve the Greenbury Point Conservation Area overlooking the Severn River and Chesapeake Bay. The patch of green can be seen from the city, and the three radio towers – the remnants of an array that used to communicate with Navy submarines under the Atlantic Ocean – have become landmarks for sailors clearing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
Opponents fear that the additional 18-hole golf course on the peninsula will destroy important wetlands and forest habitats, pollute the bay and cut off public access to the beach. They are also concerned that the proposal is far beyond what the Navy admits and that well-connected veterans and wealthy alumni It will have a huge impact in deciding whether to build it.
“There are a lot of people here that love and use this place: old people, kids being dragged in buggies . . . people walking dogs, people training for marathons . . . . This is a special resource,” said Joel Dunn, president and CEO of the Chesapeake Conservancy. Very much to the community, and we are very grateful to the Navy for allowing us to use, visit and enjoy it. So the threat of having her removed with a private golf course is really concerning to all of us here.”
Twenty-five environmental organizations — including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Severn Riverkeeper, and the Maryland League of Conservation Voters — wrote a letter in May Secretary of the Navy Carlos del Toro urges him to kill the plan. A survey commissioned by the Severn River Society and the Chesapeake Conservation Organization found that more than two-thirds opposed the idea.
A Facebook page called Save Greenberry Point It attracted about 2,000 members, and about 4,700 people signed up for Change.org petition. Letters were sent to members of the Maryland congressional delegation asking them to intervene.
Although many opponents said they respected the Navy’s longstanding efforts to balance its mission and protect the bay, they criticized the proposal and what they said was a lack of transparency.
“This is a typical developer model,” said Jesse Elif, CEO of the Severn River Association. “Hide the ball until you reach the end zone and then hit it.”
Gladchuck, though unsurprised by the protest, described the response as worrisome and too premature for what he described as the equivalent of Experimental balloon.
“There is no bulldozer, no plan, no architectural design — no architect,” Gladchuk said in an interview. “We looked at Greenbury Point and said, ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be interesting to study the feasibility of a great recreational facility in that respect? “”
In his letter dated February 15, Gladchuck – President of the Naval Academy of Golf Association (NAGA) and athletic director of the academy – urged del Toro to support the project. He said the second golf course — which NAGA will develop on property to be leased from the Navy — would be a perfect fit for the newly renovated and remodeled golf course. The reform started in 2020 and It cost $10 million, and also includes plans for a new club with a dining area.
“I am asking for your support,” Gladchuk says in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post. “I look forward to your visit to show you our conceptual plans for the course.”
But Gladchuck said there was no meeting, and so far, not even a map of a new golf course. In his imagination, though, about 280 acres of Greenbury Point Conservation Area and adjacent land would be developed into an 18-hole golf course between nature trails, a boat launch, birdwatching canopies, fitness sites and other features. Areas with contaminated soil from past marine activity will be cleaned up, and sea walls will be raised in anticipation of rising sea levels due to climate change.
“It’s bloated,” Gladchuck said of the area now. “It is infested with ticks. The hiking trails are full of invasive species. It is just untapped land.”
Hundreds, if not thousands, of golfers use the current privately funded course, including Navy officers in their physical, group, and physical education programs; serving military personnel of all branches, including civilian employees; and veterans and academy alumni, Gladchuck said. Audience members are welcome to play for a fee or become a member.
Even if the Navy gives all the clarity to move forward on a new path, he said, the process will require multiple levels of bureaucratic review, environmental and historical studies in line with federal law, as well as ample public comment. It would also have to take into account a decades-old binding agreement by the EPA and state governments located in the watershed to Gulf Restoration.
“It will take years to develop,” Gladchuk said.
It is also estimated that NAGA will need to raise at least $35 million to make this happen.
Meanwhile, his proposal is advancing up the chain of command, beginning with the Naval Support Activity at Annapolis, a facility that is part of the Washington Naval District and serves the Naval Academy, Greenbury Point, and nearby naval possessions. Ed Ziegler, a spokesman for the Washington Naval District, said nothing had changed since Gladchuck’s speech and referred more questions to the Navy. FAQ page.
Jennifer Cruz Curry, a retired Annapolis police officer who helped organize opposition to a new golf course, said opponents continue to pressure the Navy to learn more about the status of the proposal.
“I doubt it’s on a napkin,” said Cruz Carey, 56, of Cape St Clair.
Under tax law, the Naval Academy Golf Association is a not-for-profit social club created to promote and support the sport of golf and to operate the academy’s golf course.
NAGA had revenue of more than $2.5 million in 2018 from greens fees, start-up fees, golf cart rentals and membership dues of more than $1.6 million, according to its most recent public financial statements. The financial statement estimates the value of the property at about $5.8 million.
Gladchuck said there are 510 members who pay dues equally divided between military and civilian, and another 118 are on the waiting list. The start-up fee — $22,500 for family memberships — has been cut sharply for retired military personnel, who pay $5,500. Greens fees are similarly discounted.
Besides the golf course, the Navy property across the River Severn from the Academy supports many other uses, including rugby courts and a rifle and pistol range. Much of the 827 acres were purchased in 1909 by the Navy as farmland to support the Academy’s dining hall.
Beginning in 1918, Greenbury Point became a radio research and transmission site until satellite communications rendered it obsolete. The radio towers were turned off, and all but three were destroyed.
Since 1999, Greenbury Point has been managed as a conservation area. During a recent tour, Dunn and a group of conservationists noted the rich diversity of wildlife there – although part of the conservation area was off limits while the shooting range was in use.
Butterflies perched on milkweed stalks, and indigo banners flew from a treetop on the edge of a tattered field. Hundreds of creatures, including ospreys, deer, tree frogs, turtles, and yes, ticks, live at the site, whose nearby waters support shellfish and other marine life.
Sue Steinbrueck, an opposition organizer who also researches the history of the area, said the land was inhabited by humans 10,000 years ago, and has been settled by Europeans since 1649.
“It’s a scarce, scarce resource that people use,” said Dunn, who heads the Chesapeake Conservancy. “We all care about the Severn River and the Chesapeake Bay, we want people to invest in its future, and we’re putting billions of dollars into getting it back. But if you can’t see it, and you don’t enjoy it, you won’t vote for it.”