Volunteer naturalists spent four hours identifying species at Greenbury Point on Sunday. They've IDed 68 different species and counting. Photo: Greenbury Point Biodiversity Project

USNA Golf Development at Greenbury Point off the Table (for Now)

After more than three months of rumors, community outrage, and dueling lease proposals, the U.S. Navy has announced it is not considering any sole-source lease proposals for its Annapolis property at Greenbury Point— not for a new golf course and not for a county-run public park.

Greenbury Point is owned by Naval Support Activity (NSA) Annapolis and used for military training activity including firearms ranges. When training isn’t underway, the Navy makes Greenbury Point’s walking trails available for hikers and dog walkers. Its waterfront is rich with wildlife and has stunning views of the Severn River, Whitehall Bay, and the Chesapeake Bay beyond.

The Naval Academy Golf Association, which runs a golf course exclusively for the USNA community and private members adjacent to Greenbury Point, proposed developing the land into a second 18-hole private golf course. When the proposal became public this spring, residents, environmental groups and some local lawmakers immediately railed against it.

A Facebook group formed in May called “Save Greenbury Point” has 2,400 members who share photos of wildlife sightings and historical articles on Greenbury Point’s origins—not to mention its three World War I-era radio towers that still remain as a landmark for navigating boats.

This past week, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman sent a letter to NSA Annapolis Commanding Officer Capt. Homer Denius, Pittman asked for the agency to “allow Anne Arundel County to keep it as a conservation area, managed by our Department of Recreation and Parks through a long-term lease,” in hopes of preserving Greenbury Point as a place for the community to enjoy (when safe).

Just hours after Bay Bulletin asked the Navy for their response to Pittman’s letter and where the golf course proposal stood, they responded saying neither proposal is being considered anymore.

“As of now, the Navy is not considering any sole source lease proposals for Greenbury Point. We received competing proposals from Anne Arundel County and the Naval Academy Golf Association for a sole source lease and management of Greenbury Point, which makes it no longer possible to consider either party’s request,” said Ed Zeigler, spokesman for Naval District Washington. “NSA Annapolis is currently evaluating the status and future of Greenbury Point in support of the mission of both the installation and the U.S. Naval Academy.”

On its Greenbury Point website, NSA Annapolis takes care to remind visitors that using the property for recreation is a privilege, not a right. ““Greenbury Point is a part of a naval installation and therefore is owned by the Navy. What I’d like everyone to know is that it might be federal property, but it does not mean it’s public. We maintain the property to serve and support NSA Annapolis’s mission. Since we have the opportunity to open to the public, I would like everyone to respect the property, its cleanliness, and the rules that are in place,” says Denius.

When the point was open this past Sunday, a group of volunteer naturalists spent four hours canvassing the trails and wetlands in an attempt to catalogue all the important species that call Greenbury Point home. The Greenbury Point Biodiversity Project, as they’re called, identified 68 different species just in those four hours. They will hold a larger “Bioblitz” this Saturday, Aug. 20, in which people will try to identify as many species as possible in a 12-hour window.

Chesapeake Conservancy was among the groups that threw support behind protecting Greenbury Point from development, along with the Severn River Association and Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Joel Dunn, President & CEO of Chesapeake Conservancy says of the Navy’s latest announcement, “I am hopeful that this reflects a positive change of course for the Navy, but I know with absolute certainty that the community will continue to advocate strongly for the permanent conservation of Greenbury Point Conservation Area and for continued equitable public access until that outcome is achieved.”

-Meg Walburn Viviano