"Most of the people who work here know me," said Joyner, 69, who now
splits his time between living in a trailer here and living here in his
Virginia home. "Not too many people have been here longer than me."
Most of the visitors to the center are short-timers, active-duty
military officers, retirees and Department of Defense employees who come
to the Calvert County facility to relax for weekends and vacations. The
center has cottages, bungalows, campgrounds and homes for rent on the
grounds, which have tennis, basketball and volleyball courts, pools and
Opened in 1971, the center now attracts as many as 500,000 visitors a
year, for everything from day visits to longer stays, said Kathryn
Glockner, with the Morale, Welfare and Recreation office for Solomons and
the nearby Patuxent River Naval Air Station.
Glockner said the center, which she called a "national asset," is the
only Navy facility of its kind. While it is run by the Navy, however, the
Solomons center is open to active members or retirees from any branch of
But most of the people here on a weekday are retirees.
Some bring their trailers and stay from April until November. The
trailers are parked close together, and all the retirees know each other,
said Louis Mastella, a retired Air Force master sergeant who has been
coming to the center since 1983.
They worry about persistent rumors that the center, their temporary
retirement home, could be targeted in the next Base Realignment and
Closure round, which is coming up this month.
"We've been on the list before," said Raymond Flack, 66, a retired Navy
petty officer who lives in Denton when he is not at Solomons.
They think the recreation center would be an attractive target for
Defense Department budget-cutters.
The only strictly military use of the property is a contractor on the
grounds, DynCorp, that rehabilitates equipment for the Patuxent River base
and employs about 150 people, said Todd Morgan, president of the Southern
Maryland Navy Alliance.
And the retirees note that riverfront land of the center is itself
worth a lot of money.
"It will be a goldmine for whoever grabs it," Mastella said.
Calvert County officials say that closing the recreation center, while
it would be a blow to the service members and retirees who use it, would
hardly qualify as a disaster for the county.
"It would not be the worst thing in the world to get that property back
on the tax rolls," said Jim Shepard, director of the Calvert County
Department of Economic Development.
Shepard said he could not put a specific value on the property, "but it
would certainly be in the millions."
Besides being waterfront property, it is also already zoned by the
county for "town-center" use, making it available for development for
businesses and residents, Shepard said.
But the folks at the Navy Recreation Center say it is one of the only
morale boosters left for military retirees in the area.
"We contributed our part for the country, so we deserve something too,"
He said he and his wife have great friends who they look forward to
seeing every year at the center, where Mastella said he has always been
able to get outside and let his hair down.
Flack said the loss of the center would be a loss to active military,
too, since it is the closest place for people stationed in Washington or
Virginia to go to relax for a weekend. Other recreation centers are just
"too far," he said.
Joyner acknowledges the possibility, but said he is not too worried the
center will close.
"They've been talking about that for years," he said, sitting on the
back of his pickup truck, which is loaded with hardware and gardening
tools. The former "poor sharecropper from North Carolina" plans to use
this summer to work on his small garden plot at the recreation center.
"Being a farm boy, I love to watch things grow," he said, squinting
into the sunlight.