Written by Dr. Jean Spooner, Chair, The Umstead Coalition
I attended yesterday’s (Feb 17, 2020) Wake County Commissioners "Growth and Sustainability" Committee meeting. There was an agenda item “Lake Crabtree Park Expansion” with no details. The Committee's members were: Sig Hutchinson, Matt Calabria and Susan Evans. Also attending were Commissioners Vickie Adamson and Greg Ford.
Getting legal mountain biking trails on the "286" tract
The subject of this discussion was getting legal trails on the “286” tract. Fabulous topic! Now, it’s on the official Wake County’s open discussions, which is great. Bill Sandifer from the RDU Airport Authority (RDUAA) was invited to be at the table to ask questions — of which there were many! I am pleased to report that the Commissioners are engaged. But, they also sent plenty of signals to RDUAA that they are concerned about how the RDUAA is managing their public property and the best path forward. The RDUAA representative indicated they “heard” the Commissioners concerns and their willingness and desire to work out solutions.
The Triangle Business Journal (TBJ) published an article about the meeting, odd since they were not in attendance, perhaps why that article misrepresented the committee’s full discussions. The discussion included the value of the trails to the community and the connected Park systems, as well as concerns about the proposed fence, quarry, loss of trails at Lake Crabtree County Park, County trail priorities, costs and the need for county staff to evaluate options before the Commissioners could have meaningful discussions.
The only actions from the Committee members were to ask County staff to talk with stakeholders and report back to the same Committee on March 16, 2020. And, asked “Dr Spooner” to have an opportunity to speak at that meeting as well. Matt Calabria asked for the “Lake Crabtree County Park Trails” to be included!
Lake Crabtree County Park to become an office park
In a disturbing discussion: RDUAA is still planning on building (e.g., Office Park, now also with Beer Garden that was attributed to “Mike Landguth’s idea”) on all the “upland” areas outside of the 100-year floodplain. That is 99% of our current single-track/pedestrian trails at Lake Crabtree County Park – trails gone!
The TBJ article did point out the proposed “quarry” was still being seen by a few as a way to fund the “lease” of the “286” tract. TBJ quote from Commissioner “Hutchinson says that’s [quarry funding up to 10 years of lease for 286] still on the table.” More than one Commissioner indicated during the Committee meeting that this source of funding should not be considered for this purpose. And Commissioner Vickie Adamson suggested that the “286 lease” be funded by the savings of not building the fence (go Vickie!).
The quarry funding the trails on "286" is not a good compromise
My thoughts: any linkage of the disastrous quarry for this purpose does not accomplish much good, but a grave net loss. We would, at best, have only 10 years of trails on “286” serving only as a “holding area” for the quarry to make their 400 pit much, much bigger and deeper. And, I predict, this would also result in a quicker loss of our precious Lake Crabtree County Park trails. This is no “compromise” or good public deal (the only entity to benefit would be a private quarry). Destroying our public lands at great loss of true trail and revenue-generating opportunities and disastrous impacts to our beloved Umstead State Park is too great a public cost. Any ties to the private quarry for trails is bad public policy and a trap.
The real solutions include legal trails at Lake Crabtree, 286, Odd Fellows and Umstead State Park. And, no private quarry on our public lands!
See The Umstead Coalition's and Triangle Off-Road Cyclists (TORC) Trail Center proposal here.
The Sierra Club has a long history of protecting public lands beginning with those which would become the National Parks 127 years ago. A major focus of the Sierra Club Capital Group has been Umstead State Park, and RDU has been a neighbor of Umstead Park for about 80 years.
Although both entities have much different goals, we recognize the needs for RDU in the community, understand the basis of the RDU authority and have worked together before in previous years. In 2016 when the FAA future of RDU was available for public comment we participated; although, we did not feel heard by the Authority. The discussion was limited and controlled. When alternate uses than a quarry were proposed we supported them. The RDU authority appears to have little consideration for its neighbor.
Umstead is a 5,559 acre forest which has seen a dramatic increase in the number of visitors with 1.8 million visitors in 2016, a 38 percent increase over 2015. The sale/lease of 105 acres of RDU managed property to Wake Stone has put Umstead State Park at much higher risk for long term damage and exposure to environmental pollution. There are many major concerns here. One of such concerns is the need to protect the multi-use trails within Umstead State Park that serve as arterial greenway trails connecting Durham, Cary and Raleigh. Another major concern is the need to protect Crabtree Creek, a class B-NSW steam in the Neuse River Basin.
Something to understand here is that the Nutrient Sensitive Waters (NSW) is a supplemental classification intended for waters needing additional nutrient management due to being subject to excessive growth of microscopic or macroscopic vegetation. The entire Neuse River Basin including Crabtree Creek is classified as NSW.
Description of Damage to the Park
Removing the forested buffer of the Odd Fellows Tract and replacing it with a quarry will harm Umstead State Park.
Description of Damage to the Community Environmentally
Worst Case Description
The lease of this land for a quarry will harm the health and safety of over 2 million visitors per year to Umstead State Park for 25+ years. The quarry may sever or severely impair the east-west portion of the Cross-County connection between Durham County and Wake County through Umstead State Park. Active transportation users can currently travel north to south on the American Tobacco Trail or the Neuse River Trail, and east to west between the trails that go through Umstead State Park. This east-west connection is currently the only safe route for bicyclists, runners and pedestrians going between all of these major municipalities. (Note: building the connection between Crabtree Creek Greenway and Umstead State Park's Turkey Creek and Cedar Ridge Trails on the other side of Umstead State Park was delayed over 20+ years due to litigation between the City of Raleigh and Hanson Aggregates Quarry.)
RDU Authority has the purpose of serving the community and must consider functions which assist in that purpose. The Sierra Club does feel that other uses such as a forested recreation land use as offered by the Conservation Fund is a better choice than the quarry. Once the rock is removed, the 400 feet deep quarry pit will remain and there will be no way to return it to a scenic and environmentally supportive use.
Concerning Preservation of Open Space or Public Property
The Sierra Club will always strive to promote efficient use of our natural resources, especially in urban areas as growing cities are encroaching upon our natural resources. We believe that it is imperative that we can conserve open space wherever possible, as doing so would promote better quality of life and infrastructure in a growing city like Raleigh. Furthermore, as Sierra Club is committed to the advocacy of equity, inclusion, and justice, we want to ensure that everyone can benefit from the preservation of open space regardless of backgrounds, and the aforementioned proposal to turn the Odd Fellows Tract into a part of the forested recreation is one which the general public can all benefit.
Article XIV, Section 5, of the North Carolina Constitution provides the following: It shall be the policy of this State to conserve and protect its lands and waters for the benefit of all its citizenry, and to this end it shall be a proper function of the State of North Carolina and its political subdivisions to acquire and preserve park, recreational, and scenic areas, to control and limit the pollution of our air and water, to control excessive noise, and in every other appropriate way to preserve as a part of the common heritage of this State its forests, wetlands, estuaries, beaches, historical sites, open lands, and places of beauty.
Water Quality References:
Number of visitors to Umstead State Park:
NC General Statute to identify and preserve natural areas.
Map of Greenway System and potential future greenway connectors between Durham and Raleigh through Umstead State Park:
Crabtree Cross-City Connector:
Sierra Club’s call for preservation of open space in urban areas
Sierra Club article on how equity ties into open space preservation
March 5 Capital Group Sierra Club Letter to Raleigh City Council
May 7 Capital Group Sierra Club Public Comments to Raleigh City Council
400 Feet Down Website and Movie
View this content as a PDF here.
I spent the past week at Snowmass Village, CO with 170 others from Raleigh, Wilmington, Charlotte, South Africa, Germany, NC’s Outer banks and more.
Snowmass Village offers exceptional conference facilities and connected family-friendly amenities such as TRAILS for winter sports and multi-season hiking/mountain biking. Folks are willing to fly in from around the globe and endure a long bus ride to enjoy this amazing destination resort.
I, myself, as an NCSU Professor, hosted conferences for 30 years around the nation for watershed water quality professionals and Snowmass Village is among everyone’s favorite conference facility because of the recreation amenities. In stark contrast, the Chicago airport was the least favorite because “there was nothing to do” on the airport facility.
RDU Forest Village Concept
Can anyone imagine an opportunity in the East Coast where there is a venue that has conference centers adjacent to entertainment and recreation areas and this venue is part of a major airport ?
We did! We engaged two landscape architecture firms: EDSA, an internationally renowned landscape developer firm (e.g., Marriott destination resorts around the world) and Susan Hatchel, a landscape architect firm that does parks and greenways master planning for NC local governments, including Raleigh. The Umstead Coalition and Triangle Off-Road Cyclists (TORC) partnered with them in 2017 and produced a RDU Forest Village Concept. Download a PDF of the full concept here.
Wake County Commissioners saw such promise in our concept that they contracted with the UNC School of Government – Development Finance Initiative (DFI) to evaluate the “Preliminary Feasibility Analysis for Recreation-Related Development, Wake County, North Carolina (August, 2017).” DFI’s findings:
“DFI conservatively estimates that a recreation-themed development concept could catalyze roughly $200 million in private investment. This $200 million could generate up to $2 million in tax revenue for Wake County. Retail space and some of the recreational facilities would also generate sales taxes. These revenue sources could finance public infrastructure improvements and maintenance related to the recreational district.”
Natalie Lew gave a renewed business perspective in her analysis.
RTA RDU AID Task Force Recommendations
Recently, a Regional Transportation Alliance RDU Airport Infrastructure Development (AID) Task Force recommended a complete revamp of the LAND USE portion of the RDU Airport Master Plan to better protect our “beloved” Umstead State Park. Their recommendation is insightful. The RDUAA studied alternatives for the runways, terminal and related in their $4.3 million dollar Vision 2040 grant.
But, they failed to do any alternative evaluations to their non-aeronautic land use plan which destroys Lake Crabtree County Park’s 147 acres of bike/pedestrian trails for an office park, destroys the Odd Fellows Tract with a quarry, and destroys another forested area between these two tracts that serves as a wildlife corridor into Umstead State Park for parking lots.
Alternative Options to the Quarry Ignored
RDUAA ignored the massive public outcry to evaluate suggested alternatives for this land that is adjacent to Umstead State Park, including those offered with extremely detailed professional evaluations to push through the destructive quarry. It is poor governance of a public body – to ignore alternatives that will benefit generations to come, will generate more revenue and community good will, and create a destination resort that can also generate property taxes for our local economy. The current Vision 2040 (non-aeronautical portion) land use plan depicts a great loss of opportunity and the quarry leaves a great liability for the local government owners.
A Sustainable Revenue Source
The key to a successful “village” or sustainable revenue source for RDU is a destination recreational and education facility. Without the uninspired, revenue-killing and “distracting” proposed private rock quarry on the Odd Fellows Tract, we could create the 50 miles of diverse single-track bike/pedestrian trails required to be an Internationally Certified International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) Bike Center (Lake Crabtree County Park, Odd Fellows, “286” and Umstead State Park).
RDUAA is short-sighted in destroying our public lands with a 400-foot fit rock mine, at great harm to our beloved William B. Umstead State Park. The local government owners of the airport (Counties of Wake and Durham, Cities of Raleigh and Durham) and the other affected local governments (Towns of Cary, Morrisville, and Apex) should rise up and demand protection of our public lands, including Umstead State Park, protection and enhancement of our key connected recreational corridor and work to stopping the proposed RDU Quarry!
Help Us Make RDU Forest Concept a Reality
There are many ways you can help us. Visit our What You Can Do page to see quick actions you can take now.
Former Wake County Commissioner, Erv Portman, was interviewed by Charles Morris for the film 400 Feet Down. Erv is able to discuss the subject of the proposed Wake Stone Quarry on public vs. private land as few others can, given his past record of service to the community. Erv was also on a planning committee for the Town of Cary. This video is the full unedited version of that conversation from June 2019.
2:00 - A description of RDU Airport Authority meetings with consultant stating that airports and parks are incompatible. Erv counters this point
6:14 - There are good people with legitimate concerns on all sides. But when you look at a growth map of the RDU region, which one fits best use? Quarry or Forest?
9:40 - Appropriate use of land. Is it a sale or a lease?
12:17 - History of Odd Fellows
13:56 - Responsibility of the RDUAA
16:30 - Why does the RDU Airport Authority given so much authority and who appoints the RDUAA?
18:42 - Fiduciary Responsibility, FAA guidelines and leasing land for public good
22:00 - Time, value of money and compatible uses
24:10 - Greenways, community, engagement and communications between RDUAA and the people who appoint them.
27:46 - What is the best way for citizens to engage on this issue?
31:50 - An effective resolution
This full interview can also be enjoyed in Podcast format. Listen here: https://www.400feetdown.com/videos
A lot of development happened between 1984 and 2016 in the Triangle. What does that look like from the perspective of Umstead State Park? Will we squander our remaining greenspace for another quarry or will we expand Umstead State Park?
This video was created by Charles Morris and originally inspired by a segment in the movie 400 Feet Down. Music by Kiah Wells.
Written by William Doucette, Umstead Coalition Member
RDU continues to spread inaccurate information regarding the FAA's position about sales of non-aviation surplus property and requiring exploitation of the land.
Falsehood 1: FAA regulations prohibit RDU from selling land
According to Elliot Black, Director FAA Office of Airport Planning, FAA grant obligations and rules do not prohibit the sale of land for non-aeronautical purposes*. In fact the FAA has a review process for land sales with provisions that sale price is “fair market value” and the proceeds be used for airport purposes.
Falsehood 2: FAA’s “financial self-sufficiency policy” requires RDU to use its non-aeronautical land such as the Odd Fellows tract to generate revenue for airport operations
Director Black stated that the FAA “self-sufficiency policy” does not require land unneeded for aeronautical purposes (non-aeronautical land) be used for revenue generation.* Furthermore the FAA cannot require RDU to generate revenue from non-aeronautical land to satisfy its grant obligations including the financial self-sufficiency policy (assurance 24) .
Falsehood 3: FAA approved the quarry when it approved the Airport Layout Plan (ALP) November 20, 2017**
In fact the referenced FAA letter was only conditional approval with the following stipulations:
“This determination does not constitute FAA approval or disapproval of the physical development involved in the proposal. The determination was made with respect to the safe and efficient use of navigable airspace by aircraft as well as the safety of persons and property on the ground.”
The letter does not mention the quarry or non-aeronautical land uses. RDU deceives the public with any claim that FAA has specifically approved a quarry on RDU land. FAA has by this letter simply stated an opinion that the ALP with a quarry as proposed does not appear to adversely affect the safe and efficient operation aircraft or safety of people and property on the ground related to aircraft operations. This opinion was repeated in the April 29,2019 from Steven Hicks Director Office of Airports Southern Region***.
* Letter from Elliot Black, Director, Office of Airport Planning 800 Independence Ave., S.W. Washington DC to William H Doucette Jr. Umstead Coalition, dated September 11, 2017
** Letter from L. Bernard Green, CM, AICP, Airport Planner, FAA Memphis District Office 2600 Thousand Oaks Blvd, Ste. 2250 Memphis, TN 38118, dated November 20, 2017
*** Letter from Steven Hicks Director, FAA Office of Airports Southern Region, 1701 Columbia Ave. College Park, GA 30337 dated April 29,2019
January 15, 2020: Memorandum sent to: State Historic Preservation Officer and Deputy Secretary of the Department of Cultural Resources for the Office of Archives and History, NC State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and Administrator and Deputy Historic Preservation Officer, NC State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO)
From: Dr. Jean Spooner, Chair, The Umstead Coalition
Re: Request to PROTECT William B. Umstead State Park from proposed fence and logging detrimental to a protected property listed under the National Register of Historic Places and an effective “taking” of Park lands.
William B. Umstead State Park, including its forests, is listed under the National Register of Historic Places. The Site ID is: WA0721. Year of Registration: 1995. Listed under: ‘Crabtree Creek Recreational Demonstration Area” and “Umstead State Park, Raleigh, NC.” William B. Umstead State Park was established in 1934, well before the current RDU Airport.
Under a RDUAA’s proposal, visitors to the park will be greeted with 8' tall chain link fence topped by 3-rows of barbed wire on both sides of the East Coast Greenway as they approach William B. Umstead State Park from Lake Crabtree County Park. We believe this is NOT an appropriate entrance feel to a listed and protected property. And if the fence alone wasn't bad enough, RDU plans to clear cut a 30' wide path through the forest (15' to either side of the fence) for 8.3 miles, much of this along the border of William B. Umstead State Park (See attached Google Earth Graphic showing the proposed locations of this unnecessary boundary fence. Note, the extensive length of the proposed fence that would border within 10 feet of William B. Umstead State Park.)
Please find attached our letter of concern to NC State Parks. The proposed fence project (RDU Project No. 211140) has profound detrimental impacts on one of our most visited Parks in NC. To border our NC State Park with a security fence spec’ed for power stations or prisons is an insult to our Park visitors and certainly not in character with our Historic public property. Below is a graphic of the fence spec including the RFP for the fence.
Download a PDF of the email here.
January 15, 2020: Memorandum sent to NCDEQ
Reference: RDUAA Project No 211140, proposed 9’ chain-linked, barbed wire fencing, forest clear-cutting within protected buffers of Umstead State Park and Crabtree Creek
RDUAA is proposing a massive fence and logging project on the Odd Fellows tract WITHOUT an approved mining permit. We request that NCDEQ PREVENT this proposed fence project on the perimeter of the Odd Fellows Tract due to violations of the Mining Act of 1971 and existing Mining
Permit restrictions under Mining Permit 92-10. No fence should be allowed on the Odd Fellows tract prior to an approved mining permit, and certainly with no less than committed 250 feet of undisturbed buffer.
I. Violation of the Mining Act of 1971
The proposed fence would be in direct violation of the Mining act of 1971 (as amended). Section 74-49 (7) of the NC Mining Act of 1971 includes:
"Mining" means any of the following: (i) the breaking of the surface soil in order to facilitate or accomplish the extraction or removal of minerals, ores, or other solid matter; (ii) any activity or process constituting all or part of a process for the extraction or removal of minerals, ores, soils, and other solid matter from their original location; or (iii) the preparation, washing, cleaning, or other treatment of minerals, ores, or other solid matter so as to make them suitable for commercial, industrial, or construction use.”
The proposed fence and logging is an attempt to facilitate or accomplish extraction or removal. And, an attempt to SEGMENT the proposed new rock mine project. The proposed fence and logging would certainly “break the surface soil” with every fence post and every tree removed along it’s more than the two (2) mile portion encircling the Odd Fellows tract.
It is proposed to be 9’ tall (8’ chain-link topped with 3 rows of barbed wire) with 30 feet of clear-cut swath through forested uplands and bottomlands. In addition, RDUAA has stated the intent would be to “patrol” which would also effectively establish a road along the proposed fence.
The intent for Wake Stone Corporation to apply for a Mining Permit on the entire Odd Fellows tract is included in the public document dated March 1, 2019 entitled “Option and Lease Agreement” that was signed by the RDUAA and Wake Stone Corporation (Lessee). This document clearly states the intent for the fence to be part of the mining operation. Section 8(c) on page 8:
“Lessee shall be solely responsible to provide fencing, security and all other safeguards to prevent unauthorized entry into the Premises.”
As seen from the attached Google Earth graphic, the more than 2 miles in length of fencing/logging proposed along the perimeter of the Fellows Tract would create an isolated land “island” of the
Odd Fellows Tract. The proposed fence around the Odd Fellows tract is not needed for runway/terminal security as it would be 2 miles away from the runways/terminals - demonstrating the intent is an attempt to segment and bias the mining permit evaluation process.
The proposed fence is an attempt to segment the detrimental aspects of the proposed mine BEFORE an approved mining permit modification is issued. A clear violation of the Mining Act of 1971. The proposed fence project (RDU Project No. 211140) would have profound detrimental impacts on William B. Umstead State Park, profound detrimental impacts on Foxcroft Lake and
Crabtree Creek, profound detrimental impacts on wildlife, and profound detrimental impacts on adjacent private residences.
II. Violation of the Current Mining Permit 92-10, violations of the 250-feet permanent buffers
Wake Stone Corporation has publicly stated their intent to submit a Mining Permit Application for a new rock mine pit on the Odd Fellows Tract. They have concurrently stated their intent to submit their application as an “Expansion” of their current Mining Permit 92-10. Mining Permit 92-10 is for a controversial rock mine on the OTHER side of Crabtree Creek. The Mining Permit 92-10 includes conditions, including substantial buffers along Crabtree Creek and William B. Umstead State Park.
The proposed fence outlining the perimeter of the Odd Fellow tract is a violation of Wake Stone Corporation’s current mining permit conditions (Mining permit 92-10) that were added after DEQ denied their permit, as well as the commitments Wake Stone Corporation made to NC State Parks,
DEQ and the Mining Commission and included in the Mining Permit. Wake Stone Corporation’s mining permit is conditioned with a stipulation that it maintains undisturbed buffer zones; with the exception of the installation of required sediment control measures and approved earthen berms. The committed buffers in the current mining permit are 250 feet wide and do NOT allow a fence within the buffer zones. Under its permit Wake Stone Corporation could not include the fence, clear-cut zone and adjacent road as part of the undisturbed buffer.
The current Mining Permit 92-10 language includes:
“3.C Buffer Zones. All buffer zones shown on the Site Map revised February 26, 2018 shall be maintained to protect adjoining property. These buffer zones, with the exception of the installation of required sediment control measures and approved earthen berms, shall remain undisturbed.”
The proposed fence is an apparent attempt to circumvent this committed property buffer requirement along William B. Umstead State Park and Crabtree Creek. The proposal by RDUAA is to clear-cut the forest with only 10 feet buffer from the State Park boundary and 30 to 50 feet buffer along over 1 mile through the steep slopes of Crabtree Creek. And, maintain an effective path/road for ATV and other vehicles.
No fence should be allowed on the Odd Fellows tract prior to an approved mining permit, and certainly with no less than committed 250 feet of undisturbed buffer.
Former Wake County Commissioner, Erv Portman, was interviewed in June 2019 by Charles Morris for the film, 400 Feet Down. In this interview, Portman shares how the RDU Airport Authority (RDUAA) invited a consultant from Washington, DC to explain why parks are incompatible uses with airports. When Portman asks the consultant about Lake Crabtree Park (the RDUAA has an agreement with Wake County for the park) and Umstead StatePark being directly adjacent to RDU, the consultant responded by saying that recreational uses are not incompatible, parks are. Our question is, what about a quarry?
Watch this video to see what a $2.4M, 8' chain link, barbed wire fence will look like along the border of Umstead State Park, the East Coast Greenway and the Odd Fellows Tract. Join our hike on Saturday, January 18 from 10am-12:30pm to see land that's planned to be turned into a rock quarry. RSVP on Facebook or Meetup.
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