Chet Gladchuk is in a waiting pattern.
In February, the long-time president of the Naval Academy Athletic Association and Naval Academy Golf Association sent a letter to the Secretary of the Navy requesting a formal agreement to design, develop and operate an 18-hole golf course at Greenbury Point. More than five months later, the Navy is still reviewing the proposal.
Environmental advocates immediately condemned the idea this spring, saying the land use will harm the Chesapeake Bay and wetlands at Greenbury Point, and detract from the nature conservation and public access already on the peninsula. Word got out that the golf association was planning a public meeting in May about the proposal, but the event was canceled after community outcry and has yet to be rescheduled.
The 240-acre Greenbury Point parcel, owned by the Navy, includes a nature conservation area and a popular three-mile trail with a view of the bay. The three large radio towers on the site can be seen for many miles.
Gladchuk had previously said a golf course “was just one element of the proposal.” According to the Feb. 15 letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Capital through a public information request, the proposed course would include a new walking trail, improvements to the existing firing range, tree loss mitigation and an earthen barrier, known as a berm, to protect “sensitive hazardous material on the land.”
Gladchuk said there are problems with the existing Greenbury Point site that can be mitigated, such as closures when to the Naval Academy firing range is under operation. The project could include an enclosure of that space, opening more of the land up for more regular public use.
Naval District Washington Director of Public Affairs Ed Zeigler said NSA Annapolis sent the proposal to Naval Facilities this spring. The Navy is still reviewing the proposal and asked for additional information, which NSA Annapolis is still working to provide, Zeigler said this week.
The Navy has published a frequently asked questions page related to the proposed golf course, in which it acknowledges the proposal is “in the earliest stages of review” with “no set date at this time for public comment.” On that page, the Navy has said it will not release “any documents regarding the proposal” because they “are considered internal and deliberative and unavailable for release.”
“This review process requires NAGA to prove their proposed golf course will enhance the mission of NSA Annapolis and [the Naval Academy],” the Navy said on its website. “If the proposed concept moves through the review process, the public will have an opportunity to review and comment on any proposed plans for Greenbury Point.”
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Chesapeake Conservancy and other environmental advocates have said they are opposed to a new golf course at Greenbury Point in part because it would harm the environment. The parcel is inside the state’s critical area, a designation for land near tidal waters that is protected to reduce sediment and pollutant runoff by conserving trees that “buffer” pollution.
Grassroots opposition to the proposed course has continued to grow in recent months. A “Save Greenbury Point” Facebook page boasts more than 2,000 members. The Conservancy also solicited a survey of more than 759 Marylanders, 233 from Anne Arundel County, from Annapolis-based OpinionWorks LLC. That survey, conducted in May, found that a majority of residents oppose a golf course on the land.
The Conservancy also presented a possible alternative: transfer the land from the Navy to a different federal agency, such as the National Park Service, for stewardship and to ensure public access. Survey respondents favored that option by a margin of four to one.
“I feel confident that particularly following the Biden administration’s executive order on climate that set a goal to conserve 30% of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030, Navy leadership will make the right decision and reject this proposal to un-conserve a conservation area for purposes of a second, non-public golf course,” Chesapeake Conservancy President & CEO Joel Dunn said in a statement Friday.
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If amenable to the idea of a new course, the golf association and the Navy would enter into an agreement under which the association will plan and design a new golf course on Naval Support Activity Annapolis land. But Gladchuk says he envisions more than that — a boat launch, cross-country trails and more to enhance public access at Greenbury Point, not stifle it.
Gladchuk said Friday that he wants a chance to study the possibilities, and that is the permission he is seeking from the Navy.
He said his request for a sole source lease will mean the golf association can complete the work of collecting public input and paying to design a project with a promise from the Navy that the golf association will operate whatever is ultimately built on the land, if anything. They don’t want to deliver a well-designed project with community input that is then bid to someone else to run, Gladchuk said.
The existing Naval Academy golf course adjacent to Greenbury Point to the north, operated by the golf association, was recently renovated, and plans are in the works to add a new clubhouse venue with dining, according to Gladchuk’s letter. Civilian course members are asked to pay an initiation fee of $22,500, in addition to monthly dues.
The Conservancy has estimated that 191 trees were removed from the existing course during its recent renovation, based on aerial imagery from June and a record of trees taken by the University of Vermont in 2018.
Gladchuk said after finishing the renovation in 2021, he started to think about Greenbury Point, and wonderedwhat it could become with the right management.
“What could it become? What could it look like?” Gladchuk said.