Plans to develop a second golf course near the Naval Academy have been scrapped, for now, with the Navy citing two competing proposals and conservation as a reason to grind planning to a halt.
The decision follows a concept proposal to construct an 18-hole golf course at the Greenbury Point conservation area — a Navy property located on a peninsula across the Severn River — and a counter proposition that intended to transform the area into a county park.
“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,” Ed Zeigler, director of Naval District Washington’s public affairs, said in a Aug. 15 release. “NSA Annapolis is currently evaluating the status and future of Greenbury Point.”
The approximately 280-acre plot is currently open to the public, at least when academy training events do not interfere. Whether it will be developed into a golf course, a county park or kept as is has yet to be determined, though advocates and lawmakers have made their views known.
Chet Gladchuck, who heads the Naval Academy’s athletic department and golf association, is the individual behind the effort to build the new golf course.
“We’re submitting our proposal, whether or not the Navy determines it to be sole-sourced or not,” Gladchuk told Military Times, adding that his vision for the project, which would be entirely privately funded, is to advance the academy’s recreational and athletic facilities.
The Naval Academy’s current golf course, available to active duty, retired military and civilians, is leased by the golf association and recently received a multimillion dollar renovation, Gladchuck said. He cited his organization’s management of the existing course as a template for how it would handle the new responsibility.
Opponents declare water hazard
The competing proposal by Anne Arundel County, guided by county executive Steuart Pittman, to lease and manage Greenbury Point as a conservation area has been backed by several conservation groups that have strongly objected to the new golf course, arguing that fertilizer and chemicals from its construction would damage the area’s wetlands.
“Our first and immediate concern was the environmental impact that a golf course would have on this very sensitive piece of property,” Jesse Iliff, the executive director of the environmental nonprofit Severn River Association, told Military Times. Iliff also noted that the transparency of the project proposal was a concern.
Gladchuck has pursued the construction of the second golf course since early this year, according to a letter made available to Military Times via a Maryland citizen’s FOIA request.
On February 15, he contacted Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro to ask for his support. A May 6 response from Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy James Balocki told Gladchuck to instead ask Naval Support Activity, The Capital reported.
“I think a second golf course would be harmful to the Chesapeake Bay and the Severn River for several reasons,” said Joel Dunn, president and CEO of the environmental nonprofit Chesapeake Conservancy.
Dunn’s organization has worked extensively with the Pentagon, including the DoD’s Environmental Protection Integration Program, to preserve natural lands, but even using best environmental practices could still unleash harmful chemicals into the water, he said.
A statewide survey conducted at the beginning of the summer found that roughly two-thirds of Maryland residents were opposed to building a new course on conservation land. A subsequent online petition encouraged individuals to write their lawmakers, and separately, a Facebook page, Save Greenbury Point, has championed conservation at the location.
“All the people that are having a difficult time right now with the project, I don’t know if they understand fully the meticulous detail that goes into development of something as comprehensive as this,” Gladchuck said, crediting a process he says would include a proper environmental impact review.
Among other regulations, the National Environmental Policy Act, enacted in 1970, requires federal agencies to assess the environmental impact of a proposed action before proceeding.
Congress on the fairway
In an an Aug. 15 letter to Secretary Del Toro, Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), who represents the district where Greenbury Point is located, and other Maryland lawmakers discussed “three baseline requirements” for protecting the environment and maintaining public access.
“Greenbury Point is a critical conservation area, buffering the Chesapeake Bay from nutrient pollution while providing irreplaceable habitats for wildlife and access to the Bay for the community,” Sarbanes told Military Times.
“I have deep reservations about any proposal to convert this forested land to a golf course and limit public access to such an important natural recreation area. I will continue to monitor this situation closely and take every opportunity to communicate to the Navy my own concerns and those of my constituents and area environmental groups.”
Anne Arundel County officials told Military Times they did not have anything to add at this time.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media