Greenbury Point, a peninsula owned by the Navy with expansive views of the Severn River, Whitehall Bay, and the Chesapeake, is now the site of a major controversy.
The Naval Support Activity-managed (NSA) property has been long regarded as a hidden gem for nature lovers, hikers, runners, and dog walkers. Its three radio towers serve as a local landmark used by boaters as a navigation point. Its 3.1 miles of trail is only open for public access on some days, as the natural resources conservation area is also home to Navy firearm ranges. Roads used recreationally by the public are within the Surface Danger Zone, so the public areas can close anytime. Folks know that there is a Twitter feed you can check before heading to Greenbury Point to make sure it’s currently open.
The peninsula is also home to the Naval Academy Golf Course, a members-only 18-hole course used by the Midshipmen’s NCAA Division I golf teams, active and retired military, USNA faculty and staff, and civilian members. It has 484 members, and can also be used by certain active-duty and retired military non-members. The golf course underwent an extensive renovation that was completed in 2020.
Now, a proposal has surfaced from the Naval Academy Golf Association (NAGA) to lease NSA land at Greenbury Point and construct a second, new golf course. The specific plans in the proposal have not been publicly released, and Bay Bulletin has been unable to reach NAGA for comment.
But several community groups, public water access advocates, and hundreds of individuals on a new “Save Greenbury Point” Facebook page fear the proposed golf course would cut off public trail and water access, and development would disturb important wildlife habitats.
“It cannot be ignored that Greenbury Point Conservation Area is entirely in the critical area, an area designated by the state of Maryland as crucial to the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Given the Biden Administration’s ‘America the Beautiful’ plan, an effort to protect 30 percent 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,” says Joel Dunn, President and CEO of Chesapeake Conservancy.
Some fences already in place at Greenbury Point have fueled additional panic among trail users, but Ed Zeigler, Director of Public Affairs for Naval District Washington, says the trail is still open to the general public, so long as firearms training is not taking place. He tells us portions of the trail are sometimes closed to do preservation and/or maintenance on the towers or the trail. “Any closures, signs, markings, restrictions or otherwise have nothing to do with a recent proposal to build a new golf course.”
Zeigler stresses to Bay Bulletin that the proposal is “only a concept at this time.” He says, “Naval Support Activity Annapolis is currently reviewing the proposed concept. Once the installation review is complete it will be forwarded to Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Washington for further review. Eventually it will make its way to the Navy staff and to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Energy, Installations and Environment).”
A community meeting was originally scheduled in Providence, a small community on the St. Margaret’s Peninsula within walking distance to Greenbury Point. But that meeting was postponed without an immediate replacement date.
Zeigler says the public will have a voice in the proposed golf course, saying in a statement, “The Navy is committed to being a responsible community partner. If the proposed concept moves through the review process, there will be an opportunity for the public to review and comment on any proposed plans to Greenbury Point. Transparency, community involvement and input will be critical to ensuring we meet both the needs of the Navy and the Annapolis community.”
-Meg Walburn Viviano