November 10, 2022 |Josh Lynsen

Permanent Land Protection Secures Future for Veterans Retreat

Situated on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, fronting two pristine waterways and just a short distance from the Chesapeake Bay, Patriot Point focuses on maintaining a relaxing destination for those who have valiantly served our nation so that they can take a step back from the stresses and challenges of their everyday lives. Established in its current form in 2016 by the nonprofit Military Bowl Foundation, Patriot Point has hosted more than 2,600 veteran and active-duty service members, as well as their families and caregivers, as they recharge and refresh. The facility does meaningful work — as mediamagazine and military publications have reported.

Photo courtesy Patriot Point.

And now, service members will always have a safe space to relax in Maryland because Patriot Point decided to permanently protect its land with a conservation easement in collaboration with The Conservation Fund, thus ensuring two things. First is that the land and its use will, essentially, never change. The land’s value for veterans — and the environment — will remain intact forever. Second is that the conservation easement lessens Patriot Point’s tax burden, which allows more of the facility’s funds to be applied toward enhancing the property’s facilities and restoring shoreline.

It’s a win-win situation, according Patriot Point spokesman Josh Barr. “This agreement lets us know that we can keep making a difference for people who have sacrificed a lot for our country,” Barr said. “Patriot Point relies 100% on donations to fund what we do. So this agreement provides Patriot Point the ability to know it’s going to continue making a difference for service members — and keep providing them the great, first-class experience that they deserve.”

Warrior Reunion Foundation hosted a pair of weekend retreat visits in the summer of 2021, which brought together soldiers who served together in Afghanistan and Iraq. Photo courtesy Patriot Point.

And what it does, it does well.

Lieutenant Colonel Steve Holmberg, who visited Patriot Point as part of a Warrior Reunion Foundation retreat, commanded the 618th Engineer Support Company and served in Afghanistan in 2010. In a 2021 video recorded during his visit to Patriot Point, Holmberg recalled he had a very difficult combat tour and suffered significant losses during that time.

But his visit to Patriot Point, where Holmberg reconnected with soldiers and Gold Star families to relax, was healing. “Out of all the things I’ve done over the last 10 years to deal with that combat tour, this is probably the most therapeutic thing that I’ve done,” he said. “It is great to see everyone get together and share stories and have a wonderful time.”

Barr said Holmberg’s experience is representative of the time so many service members have enjoyed at Patriot Point. The facility, which charges guests no fees and is accessible to people with disabilities, works directly with veteran and military family nonprofit organizations, such as Warrior Reunion Foundation, to coordinate events to ensure all visitors receive a meaningful experience.

Guests of Patriot Point can participate in a full range of activities, including hunting, fishing, kayaking, walking on the beach, working out in the state-of-the-art fitness center or just enjoying the simple peacefulness that a serene landscape offers. Barr said no matter how visitors spend their time, they all leave with a similar question.

“Inevitably, as people are leaving, they ask, ‘When can we come back?’” Barr said. “Always, the first hour or two after people show up, their guard is up and they’re still adjusting to their new surroundings. But by the end of the first night, everybody is going on like they’ve known each other for a long time. They know each other — they trust each other — and they’re supporting each other.”

Patriot Point General Manager Hugh Middleton (left) joined by U.S. Marine Corps veterans Joey Jones and Danny Ridgeway after the last hunt of the season in January 2021. Photo by Joy Losciale.

Such trust is critical to all that Patriot Point does. And it was critical to the facility’s work with The Conservation Fund as the conservation easement was arranged and finalized. The Fund, which was brought into the project because of its strong presence in Maryland, partnered with Patriot Point to develop a solution benefiting the facility’s mission as much as it benefitted the facility’s land.

Barr said the easement will allow Patriot Point to make new strides in its efforts to further improve its 294-acre retreat, which has experienced some shoreline erosion.

“We’ve made some improvements to the property itself,” he said. “We’ve improved the shoreline. We’re fighting erosion. And there are goals of doing more. This agreement will definitely make a difference there.”

Photos courtesy Patriot Point.

It’s an arrangement that may have come from an unexpected partnership, but it’s an arrangement that will benefit so many.

Hugh Middleton, a former Navy SEAL, has been running Patriot Point since November 2020. “Being on or near the water has long been a source of healing,” shared Middleton. “It calms the mind and blankets one with a deep sense of serenity. These things are what make Patriot Point so special. Our motto is, ‘Healing Begins at the Front Gate.’  The moment guests drive down our lane, stress, anxiety, depression all begin to fade. The land on which Patriot Point sits is what makes us unique and what I believe sets us apart from other veteran retreat locations around the country. The conservation easement will forever protect and support our mission. I tell people all the time, Patriot Point’s mission will never end.”

Written by

Josh Lynsen

In his role as media relations manager at The Conservation Fund, Josh Lynsen focuses on media strategy and opportunities for projects and programs in the Northeast, Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions. Prior to joining the Fund in 2022, Josh was media relations manager at the Land Trust Alliance, where he secured coverage in outlets such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He previously reported for newspapers at the local, regional and national levels.