More questions than answers on Navy’s possible leasing of Greenbury Point for golf course expansion

The Navy indicated they received a proposal from the Naval Academy Golf Association (NAGA) to lease land at Greenbury Point for the expansion of the golf course.

The Navy’s statement about this proposal came after the public had already started raising questions about the possibility of changes at the federally-owned, but open-to-the-public property.

The public has yet to see any plans for a golf course expansion. There have been no public meetings, although at least one for the neighboring communities of Greenbury Point was scheduled, then cancelled.

Greenbury Point is owned by the Navy, it’s the location of Naval Support Activity (NSA) Annapolis and it’s protected by the Sikes Act – the same act that made parts of the property accessible to the public.

The Sikes Act makes clear that no leasing or sale of land can be done with federal land that is protected by the act unless the sale or lease is compatible with the Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan (INRMP) for that specific property.

After requesting a copy of and/or link to the INRMP for NSA Annapolis Sunday, Ed Zeigler, public affairs director for Naval District Washington, responded Monday, “NSA Annapolis does have an Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan. However, the plan is an internal working document and not something we share with the public.”

Ziegler added, “If you have specific questions about information that is contained in the plan I can see if I can get them answered for you.”

In an email reply to Ziegler, it was mentioned that according to the DoD INMRP manual, “the ‘DoD Components make final INRMPs available electronically to the general public through the installation’s website or other appropriate outlet the INRMP for each installation.'”

A link to the DoD INRMP manual was also sent in the email to Ziegler.

Ziegler replied, “looks like the INRMP Manual says we should share the IMRMP with the public. Let me get with the people who manage the INRMP and find out why we don’t have it posted on the website.”

In the latest update Tuesday, Ziegler indicated they’re working on having the INRMP online by the end of the week.

The Chesapeake Bay Program

The Chesapeake Bay Program was created in 1983.

According to the program’s website, “The Chesapeake Bay was the first estuary in the nation targeted by Congress for restoration and protection. In the late 1970s, U.S. Senator Charles “Mac” Mathias (R-Md.) sponsored a Congressionally funded $27 million, five-year study to analyze the Bay’s rapid loss of wildlife and aquatic life. The study, which was published in the early 1980s, identified excess nutrient pollution as the main source of the Bay’s degradation. These initial research findings led to the formation of the Chesapeake Bay Program as the means to restore the Bay.”

There are a lot of organizations and government agencies involved in the Chesapeake Bay Program, including the DoD, which has its own webpage for the program.

Trees, some of which are often cut down for golf courses, play an important role in protecting the Chesapeake Bay.

Forests are especially important.

According Chesapeake Bay Program’s website, “Forests are critical to the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Large stands of trees perform ecological functions that can benefit all plants and animals, from cleaning our water and air to creating valuable habitat.”

“Retaining and expanding forests is a critical, cost-effective way to reduce pollution and restore the Bay,” states the Chesapeake Bay Program’s website. “An investment in forests is an investment in clean water and air, and sustainable forestry will help address sprawling development, climate change and energy independence.”

2016. A butterfly at Greenbury Point.

If the Navy were to lease land at Greenbury Point and if trees were to be removed for the the expansion of a golf course, it could contradict the goals of the Chesapeake Bay Program and the DoD’s own mission statement for the Chesapeake Bay Program -“Engage all levels of DoD military, civilians, and their families to be environmental stewards of the watershed where they live.”

DoD Chesapeake Bay Program Mission as seen on its website

The Coastal Zone Management Act

The Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), is a federal act and includes the Chesapeake Bay.

According to the state’s website about the CZMA, ” Under the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), direct Federal actions, Federal license or permit activities and federal financial assistance activities that have reasonably foreseeable coastal effects must be consistent with the enforceable policies of state coastal management programs approved by NOAA. The process by which a state decides whether a federal action meets its enforceable policies is called federal consistency review.”

The state’s website about the CZMA continues, “The goal of MD Coastal Consistency reviews is to ensure that federal-related projects or activities with foreseeable effects on Maryland coastal resources (e.g., wetlands, forests, rivers, beaches) and coastal uses (e.g., navigation, fishing, agriculture, energy development) are consistent with Maryland CZMP’s enforceable policies …”

One of those state management programs is the Critical Area program and all of Greenbury Point is in the critical area.

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“The Critical Area Buffer is the land area immediately adjacent to tidal waters, tidal wetlands, and tributary streams, according to the state’s website about the Critical Area Program. ” The minimum Buffer width is 100-feet; however, on some properties it may be wider because of steep slopes, wetlands, or sensitive soils. On some projects, a wider Buffer, often 300-feet or more was part of the original project approval.”

“Generally, construction and land disturbance, such as clearing trees, cutting brush, or grading, are prohibited in the Buffer, according to the state’s website. “New structures, roads, septic systems, sheds, and utilities must be located outside the Buffer unless an applicant works with the local approving authority to obtain a variance … The cutting or removal of natural vegetation in the Buffer is not allowed unless a property owner obtains approval of a Buffer Management Plan from the local government. Replanting is typically required for the removal of vegetation with certain exceptions for dead trees and invasive species. If the Buffer is already forested, it should be maintained in natural vegetation. Supplemental planting is permitted within the Buffer. Native plant species should be used to enhance wildlife habitat.”

If a forest is involved, which Greenbury Point has, there are other requirements per the state – and enforceable under the CZMA.

Greenbury Point.

“Generally, before developing an area greater than 40,000 square feet, forested and environmentally sensitive areas must be identified and preserved whenever possible,” according to the state’s website. “If these areas cannot be preserved, reforestation or other mitigation is required to replace the values associated with them.”

If a large piece of forested land was to be involved with the expansion of the golf course – and that’s a still an if, it would be contradicting the CZMA.

Joel Dunn is the president and chief executive officer of the Chesapeake Bay Conservancy – he has concerns about the potential for environmental issues with an expansion of the golf course.

“One of President Biden’s first Executive Orders was 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” explained Dunn “In the face of climate change and the nation’s loss of habitat for biodiversity, the President’s Executive Order raised the bar for conservation in this country with an important national goal to conserve 30% of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030. Achieving this national 30 x 30 conservation goal to protect America’s nature and wildlife requires us to think and act locally and to forge partnerships in the community and across government. That is one of the many reasons that I find this proposal to lease the Greenbury Point Conservation Area for yet another golf course⁠ so troubling, although I have yet to see the actual proposal and public meetings have been canceled. The Greenbury Point Conservation Area lies entirely within the critical area, designated by the state of Maryland as crucial to the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The Department of Defense has been an exemplary leader within the Chesapeake Bay Program. It defies all logic to consider a proposal that would reduce wildlife habitat and may reduce public access to the shoreline on currently publicly accessible land in a conservation area.”

Why more holes?

The NAGA already has an 18 hole golf course on Greenbury Point. It generates approximately $2.5 to $3.3 million in annual revenue, according to publicly available financial documents. Expenses, according to the same documents, are around $2.4 million.

Although much of the expansive, Greenbury Point is open to the public – the current golf course isn’t – it’s by membership only and only to select groups.

In response to a request for more information about a veteran becoming a member, Katie Vonderheide, NAGA’s director of membership and marketing, indicated the organization is not accepting new members at this time because “exceeding capacity may jeopardize providing the best service possible.”

The organization is still accepting applications for a waitlist, according to the email from Vonderheide.

An application for NAGA indicates civilian membership, which must be sponsored by three current NAGA members, requires a $22,500 initiation fee and monthly dues of $314 for single or $423 for a family.

Additional holes could help with the current capacity issue, as well as generate more revenue.

Public concerns about unknown plans

What will happen at Greenbury Point?

Until the Naval Academy Athletic Association and/or NAGA share their plans with the public, it’s just guesses, as is what’s in the INRMP.

The lack of information and transparency hasn’t helped alleviate public concerns.

The Facebook group, Save Greenbury Point, created May 4 by Sue Steinbrook and Jennifer Crews-Carey, has over 1,000 members as of this publishing – many people have posted concerns, others posted photos and some shared sentimental memories.

This story will continue to be followed. Subscribe at the bottom of the page for updates.

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Update – (5/12/2022 – as of noon today, the Navy posted the Natural Resources Management Plan for NSA Annapolis. It can be seen here – https://www.cnic.navy.mil/regions/ndw/installations/nsa_annapolis/om/environmental-.html

or here –

Completed-Final-NSA-Annapolis-INRMP_May-2011

Donna L. Cole is an award-winning multimedia and investigative reporter. She’s also veteran of the U.S. Navy.

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