Greenbury Point Protected In Annapolis If President Signs Bill

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Greenbury Point will remain open for public access if the president signs the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act. The waterfront green space, located on Naval Support Activity Annapolis, is pictured above. (Jacob Baumgart/Patch)

ANNAPOLIS, MD - A popular Annapolis trail is close to preservation after the Naval Academy tried to build a golf course there. A bill that would protect public access to the land just passed Congress, and it awaits the president's signature.

The nature area, called Greenbury Point, is located on the Naval Support Activity Annapolis base. It sits across the Severn River from the U.S. Naval Academy and is currently open to the public. The forested area is popular among hikers and bird watchers.

There is already one golf course on the base. The Naval Academy Athletic Association and the Naval Academy Golf Association proposed a second golf course there, drawing mixed reactions last year. 

Thousands signed a petition to block the golf course, saying it would disrupt a sensitive environment. Others thought the course would offer a pleasant way to enjoy nature. Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman (D) later proposed building a public park, stalling golf course talks with a competing option.

The Washington Post reported this June that the Navy was again considering a golf course, this time designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus. That led environmentalists to seek better protection from future private development.

Patch asked the Navy for a comment. Spokesperson Madelyn Flayler directed us to the Greenbury Point FAQ page.

That website says the Navy is not currently pursuing the proposed golf course or the park. The Navy promised plenty of time for public comment if that changes.

"For years, Annapolis residents and visitors have cherished the opportunity to explore Greenbury Point – one of the few publicly accessible areas of the Bay," Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D) said Thursday in a press release. "As the Navy has considered altering that access, our constituents expressed their strong opposition to changing that policy. That’s why we fought for this provision that says in no uncertain terms – Greenbury Point must stay open to the public."

The bill funding the next year for the U.S. military includes language that requires Greenbury Point to remain open for public access. That legislation passed the Senate Wednesday and the House Thursday. President Joe Biden (D) is expected to sign it into law soon.

Chesapeake Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental group, on Thursday applauded the potential protections.

"Senator Van Hollen, Senator Cardin and Representative Sarbanes deserve enormous credit and gratitude," said Joel Dunn, Chesapeake Conservancy president and CEO. "They listened to their constituents and took a stand for our trees and wildlife to protect the health of the Chesapeake Bay and to ensure that everyone, not just the privileged few, will have access to one of the last remaining natural areas of the Severn River."

The conservancy previously said the land "lies entirely within the critical area, designated by the state of Maryland as crucial to the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries."

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This year's National Defense Authorization Act says "the Secretary of the Navy may not modify or restrict public access to the Greenbury Point Conservation Area," Chesapeake Conservancy reported.

There are a few exceptions. The Navy could still restrict access for public safety reasons. 

The free access protections would also be voided if the Navy transferred the property to another public, government-operated entity. Protecting the land would then require separate Congressional action.

"Preserving Greenbury Point balances the needs of the Navy with the needs of the community," Sen. Ben Cardin (D) said in the release. "Its proximity to the Chesapeake Bay makes it an important place for outdoor recreation and conservation in the region. Ensuring public access and preventing further development will allow Greenbury Point to continue to be a model of coastal stewardship for the Chesapeake Bay."

The protections also drew support from U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, a Democrat who represents Annapolis in Maryland's 3rd Congressional District.

"For more than two decades, Greenbury Point has served as a critical wildlife refuge and cherished natural recreation area for the public, bringing the Bay within reach for more Maryland residents and visitors," Sarbanes said in the release. "Maintaining public access to this space has been a top priority, which is why I am so pleased that a provision preventing long-term restrictions to access at Greenbury Point was included in the final NDAA. I’ll keep working with Senators Van Hollen and Cardin to ensure that the Greenbury Point Conservation Area remains protected and publicly available."

Severn River Association Executive Director Jesse Iliff also praised the protections for Greenbury Point. 

"Over the past 18 months, the Severn River Association has worked closely with our partners at the Chesapeake Conservancy to build the grassroots support required to prompt this act of Congress and achieve this protection," Iliff said in a Thursday release. "There is more work to be done to ensure these provisions are not side-stepped or misapplied, but we are delighted by this result, and applaud our federal delegation for their staunch protection of the Severn River and the Chesapeake Bay."

Correction: A previous version of this story said the Navy proposed the base's second golf course. This was not correct. The proposal came from the separate Naval Academy Athletic Association and the Naval Academy Golf Association. We have since corrected the story.

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