The Navy is considering a proposal to build a second golf course north of the Severn River, at Greenbury Point, a prospect that concerns environmentalists and neighbors who want to preserve nature on the peninsula.
Naval Academy spokesperson Maddie Flayler said the Navy has received a proposal from the Naval Academy Golf Association to lease land on Naval Support Activity Annapolis at Greenbury Point to build a second Naval Academy golf course. The association, a nonprofit relative of the Naval Academy Athletic Association, operates the existing course, which is open to midshipmen, USNA staff and active and retired military members, as well as civilians.
Chet Gladchuk, president of Naval Academy Golf Association, said a golf course is just one element of the proposal the Naval Academy Golf Association submitted. Gladchuk also leads the academy’s Athletic Association. He said they don’t have a plan, but reached out to the Navy to see what it would support at Greenbury Point.
“It could hypothetically include a golf course. Anything is a possibility out there,” Gladchuk said. “Whatever we would do out there would be accommodating in much greater degree to the neighborhood and the community than it would be today.”
Greenbury Point has a gun range that is used by the Naval Academy for training. The area also has more than 5 miles of hiking trails and a nature center that are both open to the public, but closed when the range is in use.
Environmental advocates immediately raised concerns about the concept of a golf course. The entirety of the Greenbury Point peninsula is a part of the critical area, the buffer between land and rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. Hundreds of bird species reside on the peninsula, according to the bird tracking website, ebird.org. Another species tracking site, inaturalist.org, lists more than 400 species of plants and animals sighted in the area.
People are also taking to social media to share their love of, and interest in preserving, the natural habitat at Greenbury Point. The group Save Greenbury Point on Facebook has nearly 1,000 members, with some sharing photos and videos from trips to Greenbury Point and the flowers and fauna they found there.
Severn River Association Director Jesse Iliff said his organization will be closely watching the situation.
“The maintenance needs of a golf course in terms of their fertilizer and pesticides is very intensive land use that could have significant detrimental impacts on the river,” he said.
For much of the 20th century, the peninsula was used for Naval communications transmission and research. All but three of the radio towers from that period were dismantled in 1999, according to a brochure on the NSA Annapolis Morale, Welfare and Recreation website, www.navymwrannapolis.com.
Gladchuk, who has been with the academy for over 20 years, oversaw an extensive renovation of the existing 18-hole golf course two years ago. The yearlong $7 million project began in 2019 and ended with a reopening in August 2020. The course now features modern irrigation systems, lengthened greens and additional bunkers. He said the association is interested in studying ways to improve recreational access at Greenbury Point, including improvements to walking trails and infrastructure to fight sea-level rise, such as berms.
There are many bureaucratic steps before any proposal for this land is approved.
Director of Public Affairs for Naval District Washington Ed Zeigler said Naval Support Activity Annapolis reviewed a proposal for a new course at Greenbury Point and forwarded it to Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Washington for additional review. Washington requested additional information, which Naval Support Activity Annapolis is providing, Zeigler said.
He said eventually the proposal will make its way to the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment for consideration. If the proposal is received positively, Zeigler said such a project would be subject to the National Environmental Protection Act, and the Navy would also have to consider compliance with the Sikes Act, which protects natural resources on military installations.
The NEPA process would include an opportunity for public comment, he said in an email.
Federal agencies are required to “provide meaningful opportunities for public participation” with a minimum of 45 days for the public to comment on a draft environmental impact statement related to a project. The EPA lists statements that are open for public comment on its website. Forms of public input typically include public meetings, conference calls, formal hearings, informal workshops and written comments.
The Sikes Act requires an installation to make and follow an Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan, which outlines, among other things, how to manage the natural resources, allow for multipurpose uses and defines public access. A copy of the most recent resource management plan for NSA Annapolis can be found at https://trib.al/RvDeOcp.
A meeting with neighbors was planned for Tuesday evening, but was canceled after there was community outcry about the proposal, Gladchuk said.
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“We decided to pause and regroup,” he said.
Chesapeake Conservancy President and CEO Joel Dunn said he has been underwhelmed by the transparency surrounding the proposal, which is being made for federal land owned by the Navy.
“Given the Biden Administration’s ‘America the Beautiful’ plan, an effort to protect 30% of the land and water in the United States, and the Department of Defense’s exemplary leadership within the Chesapeake Bay Program, it would be ironic if the Naval Academy Golf Association’s proposal to lease the land ultimately reduced wildlife habitat and public access to the shoreline in Anne Arundel County,” he said in a statement.
This story has been updated to clarify that the Naval Academy Golf Association accepts civilian members.