Forested recreation in the heart of the Triangle 

RDU Quarry & RDU Fence Updates

Trying to keep up with everything and just want the current status? You've come to the right place. 

  • NC Division of Parks and Recreation (NC State Parks) asks for RDU Quarry Wake Stone Mining Permit Application to be Denied. Read now>>
  • The Umstead Coalition and the Sierra Club Capital Group issued a joint Resolution about the proposed quarry. Read now>>
  • Request Governor Cooper to reinstate the Sunset Clause. Learn more and submit your comments now>>
  • Help our cause. Donate via our website, GoFundMe or support us through our new online store.

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  • 08/10/2021 7:26 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    August 10, 2021

    Director Brian Wrenn Division of Energy, Minerals and Land Resources N.C. Department of Environmental Quality

    217 West Jones Street Raleigh, NC 27603

    Sent by email to: brian.wrenn@ncdenr.gov

    Re: Request to delay consideration of Wake Stone Corp. Modification of Mining Permit - Triangle

    Quarry Mining Permit No. 92-10 until Neuse River buffer impacts understood

    To Director Wrenn,

    The Capital Group of NC Sierra Club is a volunteer-led group of the national Sierra Club, serving 11

    counties in central North Carolina. On behalf of our 10,000 members and supporters, we are writing to urge DEQ to delay the decision on Wake Stone’s mining permit application 92-10 until the full impacts to the Neuse River buffers are known.

    On May 5, 2020, the NC Sierra Club, representing over 100,000 members and supporters in the state who care about the environment and our state parks, sent a letter urging DEQ to deny Wake Stone’s application for a mining permit modification. Among the reasons stated included lack of intent to seek stormwater coverage for new quarry area, inadequate reclamation plan, an inadequate study on the expected noise and vibration impacts to the state park, and failure to disclose all impacts to waters and wetlands.

    The Capital Group is writing to bring to your attention that the impacts to waters and wetlands, particularly to the Neuse Buffer, are still not yet fully understood. The following are some of the issues that require further investigation:

    1. Proposed 60-foot wide bridge over Crabtree Creek. The Wake Stone proposal calls for a 60-foot wide bridge over Crabtree Creek. This means that a bridge the width of a 4-lane highway would be within the viewscape of William B. Umstead State Park where visitors would see and hear operations of large quarry trucks. While there was a Neuse Buffer Authorization issued for this bridge, there were no measures required for avoidance or minimization of impacts on the Neuse buffer. Since the Neuse Buffer Authorization for the proposed bridge is in the appeal process, DEQ should not issue a decision on the mining permit before the outcome of the appeal has been determined, and not until impacts that the operation would have on the Neuse buffer are better understood.

    2. Impact of quarry operation on Foxcroft Lake. Foxcroft Lake includes 1.5 acres of wetlands and crossing tributaries to Crabtree Creek. The proposal for the quarry would have an impact on Foxcroft Lake with 25-foot wide swaths of deforestation across the area, specifically in Zone 1 and 2 of Foxcroft Lake for the purpose of fence crossing according to Wake Stone’s site plan.

    Foxcroft Lake and wetlands are protected under 15A NCAC 02J.0506 (see 15A NCAC 02B.0714 (3)(c)). Impacts to Foxcroft Lake would mean environmental damages of over 1/10 of 1 acre of Class WL wetland.

    The upper portion of Foxcroft Lake is within Umstead State Park, and water from the park runs toward Foxcroft Lake, and drains to Crabtree Creek upstream of the park. It’s crucial to protect Foxcroft Lake to protect the water quality of Crabtree Creek within the park, and the wetland habitats. The Neuse River Waterdog has been spotted in Crabtree Creek in the state park and was recently listed as a threatened species. More information is needed to understand the impacts to Foxcroft Lake and its connection with Crabtree Creek and the associated wetlands, Wake Stone should be required to request a Neuse Buffer Authorization prior to any decision being made about the permit.

    3. 30-feet tall, 1,700 feet long retaining wall along Crabtree Creek. Wake Stone’s proposal also includes construction of a retaining wall (up to 30 feet tall) along Crabtree Creek that would stretch for 1,700 feet. State law 15A NCAC 02B.0714 (3)(g) says, “No new clearing, grading or development shall take place nor shall any new building permits be issued in violation of this rule.” Furthermore, because the retaining wall exceeds the 300 linear feet impact to perennial stream, mitigation and Neuse Buffer Authorizations should be required from Wake Stone.

    Our understanding is that the wall is proposed to accommodate quarry trucks going to the bridge, but we are concerned that the construction would negatively impact Crabtree Creek. We are concerned that the retaining wall might confine Crabtree Creek to 100-year floods. The construction of the wall would also impact trees in Zone 1 as further clear-cutting would take place to make way for construction equipment. There is a need to better understand exactly how the retaining wall would impact Crabtree Creek, another reason for DEQ to require Wake Stone to apply for a Neuse Buffer Authorization for the installation of the retaining wall. Furthermore, strategies for mitigation should be required if approval is granted.

    The Sierra Club has sent previous letters calling for denial of the mining permit due to numerous environmental concerns. DEQ should require application(s) for Neuse Buffer Authorizations for the concerns as stated above, and no mining permit decision should be made until the decisions for the Neuse Buffer Authorizations have been made. The Capital Group remains opposed to the permit and continues to request for its denial.


    Hwa Huang, Group Chair

    Capital Group of NC Sierra Club

    Download a PDF of the Capital Group's letter to DEQ>>>

  • 07/13/2021 2:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Join us for a special tour along the Odd Fellows tract to the historic Foxcroft Lake on Tuesday, July 20: 5-6:30pm

    There's nothing like seeing the land in person, including Foxcroft Lake in the photo above, that would be severely degraded by the proposed quarry.

    Special guest joining us is NC Senator Wiley Nickel.   

    This will be a moderately-paced hike along the border of Umstead State Park and the Odd Fellows Tract.  This is a shorter version of this hike as it will turn around at Foxcroft Lake. 

    Hiking boots and long pants recommended. We will be off trail and in the rough terrain of the forest. Hiking poles may be useful. 

    Location: 2232 Old Reedy Creek Road, Cary, NC (Park along the road shoulder).  This is a distance along the gravel road down from Lake Crabtree.  Keep going until you see the house on the right.

  • 02/12/2021 4:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On February 11, 2021, Senator Wiley Nickel hosted a Town Hall with the Umstead Coalition's, Dr. Jean Spooner. Watch this recording to learn the latest about the proposed quarry and the status of the mining permit application, why we want the Sunset Clause reinstated and the latest with the proposed RDU Fence. There were lots of questions asked in the live Q&A. Watch now. 

  • 11/24/2020 2:45 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Watch this video to learn the latest news about the Stop RDU Quarry fight. Dr. Jean Spooner shared a presentation and took live Q&A from attendees. The meeting was hosted by the Umstead Coalition's partner, Sierra Club Capital Group.

  • 07/06/2020 12:36 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Written by Liz Adams, Research Associate at the UNC Institute for the Environment

    This is the summary of what is required for projects listed under the Airport Layout Plan for the RDU 2040 Master Plan.

    Content in italics include findings or observations made by StopRDUQuarry Volunteers, bolded items are items that may be significant to the Odd Fellows Tract development.

    Note: the Quarry does not show up on the list of projects, so no environmental assessment, or environmental impact study was done to determine the quarry development’s impact on the environment. As the quarry development project wasn’t listed, it appears that no coordination with other agencies occurred.

    The “Borrow” Areas are where RDUAA plans to get dirt and fill for the runways. Notice that Borrow area 3 is basically the all of the area at the end of the small plane runway….the area that Umstead was forced to give up back in the 1950’s or so…and a whole lot more that is contiguous with the border of Umstead.

    Based on my read of the document, the use of the Borrow areas are NEVER discussed. They talk about the moving the runway to the North East and no issues noted…but they don’t talk about or assess the Borrow dirt issue. Seems this should be required to be discussed given that it will directly impact Umstead.

    Borrow area 3 is most of 286….and it includes the end of the small runway.

    By not listing projects that will reduce forest cover and segmenting the projects, RDU Airport Authority has attempted to skirt the regulations in place to protect Umstead State Park.

    Environmental Overview Raleigh Durham International Airport — June 2017 (draft)


    The William B. Umstead State Park, adjacent to the eastern Airport property boundary, is a designated Cultural Resource District in the National Register of Historic Places, and is thus considered a cultural resource under Section 106 of the NHPA. A potential cultural effect was noted for Master Plan Study projects in Tables 7-1 and 7-2 if a project development footprint has the potential to affect a cultural resource. An effect may occur if a project would introduce an atmospheric, audible, or visual feature to the area that would diminish the integrity of the property’s significant historic features. Several landside and roadway improvement projects are located on Airport property adjacent to the William B. Umstead State Park and were identified as projects that may require additional consideration of cultural resources effects.

    Pursuant to FAA Order 1050.1F. projects that would have an adverse effect on cultural resources under Section 106 of the NHPA may require an EA or an EIS, even if the project would normally qualify for a CATEX under NEPA. The timing of the NEPA Section 106 process, which involves FAA consultation with the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), depends on the level of environmental review (i.e., CATEX, EA, or EIS). SHPO consultation should be considered when defining the level of effort and schedule for NEPA review.

    We need to call the State Historic Preservation Officer and ask what features are on the Odd Fellows Tract, near the proposed quarry in Umstead State Park, on RDU Airport Managed land including 286 and Lake Crabtree County Park.


    Properties protected under DOT Section 4(f) include:

    • Parks and recreational areas of national, state, or local significance that are both publicly owned and open to the public.
    • Publicly owned wildlife and waterfowl refuges of national, state, or local significance that are open to the public.
    • Historic sites of national state, or local significance in public or private ownership regardless of whether they are open to the public.

    Note: SaveRDUForest volunteers found some historic information about Foxcroft Lake on the Odd Fellows Tract. The East Coast Greenway is of national significance and will be impacted by two driveways into the proposed quarry site, and hazards from logging and bridge building trucks. The Odd Fellows Tract has been used by the Boy Scouts for generations as a camp, and has been used by Orienteering clubs as well.

    The William B. Umstead State Park and other areas designated as park, open space, surface water, and greenways comprise park/open space properties surrounding the Airport. Master Plan Study projects were identified in Tables 7-1 and 7-2 as potentially affecting a Section 4(f) resource if the footprint of a Master Plan Study project would involve a physical use of a park or other property protected under DOT Section 4(f) (e.g., purchase of land or a permanent easement or physical occupation of the property) or a constructive use of a protected property. A constructive use of a property protected under Section 4(f) would occur if secondary project effects, such as noise, air quality, or water quality, would substantially diminish the activities, features, or attributes that contribute to the significance or enjoyment of the resource. Several landside improvement, roadway improvement, and support projects would occur adjacent to park properties along the Airport boundary and were identified as projects that need further analysis to determine if a constructive use of a park could occur Future environmental reviews under NEPA would need to document whether the affected properties are protected under DOT Section 4(f) as part of the assessment of potential effects.

    Continue reading on Medium.com

  • 07/04/2020 10:59 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Written by Liz Adams, Research Associate at the UNC Institute for the Environment

    To be rather than to seem.

    On July 4, 1976 as one of the original 13 colonies who fought for independence, NC celebrated the bicentennial of the THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.[1]

    A few days later on July 7, 1976, the Sir Walter Lodge 411 Independent Order of Odd Fellows sold 83.79 acres to the City of Raleigh, City of Durham, Wake County and Durham County for the purpose of ensuring that incompatible uses would not be built near the planned new perpendicular runway.

    RDU Aiport Authority stated in a federal document in December 1976: “A recreation area under the jurisdiction of the Odd Fellows Club of Raleigh is located adjacent to the proposed project site, south of Umstead State Park and west of Crabtree Creek. The area contains a picnic shelter and a small lake, and is used for monthly club activities. This recreation facility will not be adversely affected by airport expansion.”

    In 1976 a commemorative coin was issued by the State of North Carolina with the following depicted on the coin:

    THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION BICENTENNIAL 1976/ THE GREAT SEAL OF THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA/ ESSE QUAM VIDERI/ MAY 20, 1775……TO BE. RATHER THAN TO SEEM — Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, woman operating textile machine, colonial soldier saluting Wright Brothers’ plane, two Indians, a mountain range, and a slave holding a tobacco leaf — the things that have made North Carolina great.

    The Women, Native Americans and Blacks in North Carolina do make it great. Yet systemic racism, sexism, and injustice is choking our ability to fully participate in our democracy. We need immediate reforms on many fronts to make America more just, including universal health care, a living wage, sick leave, affordable housing, and a green new deal that powers our economy with clean energy and sustainable development. Our voices are being silenced while the voices of multi-national, generational, and extractive industries (such as mining companies) grow stronger. An example of the control that extractive and generational companies have over the average individual exists right here in North Carolina — the controversy regarding the Odd Fellows land.

    The unjust disposal of the Odd Fellows Tract by RDU Airport Board Members has led to outrage and outcry by all the users of the trails through Umstead State Park. Why did they lease the Odd Fellows Tract to a private company; placing an industrial quarry next to Umstead State Park, single family homes dependent on well water, and the East Coast Greenway? Isn’t this against every current Federal and North Carolina Environmental and Zoning Policy?

    What led to the EXTRORDINARY circumstances of this decision that will irreversibly harm critical habitat, wildlands, the NC Bikeway/East Coast Greenway, an ecologically impaired Crabtree Creek that feeds into the Neuse River, and our State Park — Umstead State Park?

    With only two days notice to the public, and no public hearing, on March 1, 2019, RDU executed an Option and Lease Agreement with Wake Stone for a proposed quarry. The public who attended were greeted by guard dogs, blocked and delayed from entering, backpacks searched, relegated to the back of the room by staff who took the front row seats, and puzzled about the presence of heavy RDU Airport security. The RDUAA Board meeting lasted 4 minutes and 17 seconds.

    Where was the FAA review of this decision? Isn’t the long term lease to a quarry operator equivalent to a sale? Wasn’t this land purchased for a public purpose with federal grant money? Aren’t land uses that obscure visibility by creating dust plumes from quarry blasting considered hazardous to flight? There is an existing perpendicular runway that is used by smaller planes, that fly low to the ground, that will get close to the new quarry pit, and primarily fly during the day, when the new quarry blasts will occur. The 18.1 mile long security fence and quarry project are not listed on the airport layout plan as projects, even though removing the overburden from the Odd Fellows Tract will be the source of fill for the new runway, and the security fence will protect the quarry, logging, and overburden removal operations.

    Where was the coordination with all levels of government, affected private and/or governmental groups, agencies, commissions, etc., to obtain their input on the plans for the quarry? RDU Airport Authority invited these representatives (see link) to be on their Vision2040 Master Plan Committee. Of those that served on the committee, when did they become aware of the proposed quarry development and lease of public land for a private quarry?

    What is more important to recognize is who was NOT invited to participate. I’ve developed a list of folks that may have helped avoid this current conflict and helped provide insight from the local community:

    Umstead State Park Rangers, North Carolina State Parks, North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation, US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, DEQ Division of Water Resources, DEQ Division of Air Quality, Nearby residents who have contacted the airport about noise issues, Boy Scout Troop Leaders who camp at the Odd Fellows Tract, TORC Board Members (who develop and maintain off-road trails on Lake Crabtree), Bike Walk NC, East Coast Greenway Representative, NC-DOT Bikeway Representative, Town of Cary, Parks and Recreation, Town of Morrisville, Parks and Recreation, City of Raleigh, Parks and Recreation, Wake County, Parks and Recreation, Umstead Coalition Board Members, Lake Crabtree County Park Staff and/or volunteers.

    All of this agony and despair was promulgated in the name of freedom! Under the FAA Re-authorization Act of 2018, airports were given new freedom to make money off of land no longer required for aeronautical use. The new law stated that the Federal Aviation Administration will review and approve or disapprove only by asking the questions: Does the plan materially impact the safe and efficient operation of aircraft at, to, or from the airport? Adversely affect the safety of people or property on the ground adjacent to the airport as a result of aircraft operations? Adversely affect the value of prior Federal investments to a significant extent?

    Continue reading on Medium.com

  • 07/04/2020 9:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Written by Alan Piercy

    Additional Perspective on the Historical and Cultural Significance of William B. Umstead State Park and Odd Fellows Tract

    Last week, I reviewed the ongoing struggle over the Odd Fellows tract – 105 acres of publicly owned, forested habitat, which directly borders Old Reedy Creek Road in William B. Umstead State Park. The years-long struggle pits the RDU Airport Authority (RDUAA) and Wake Stone Corporation against preservation groups, adjacent landowners, and private citizens determined to save this forested ecosystem from an ugly fate. The purpose of this installment is not to rehash those points, which can be found here, but to further delve into the historical and cultural significance of the Odd Fellows tract, as well as Umstead State Park, which is at great risk from the proposed new quarry.

    For most who have biked, hiked or run through the jewel that is Umstead State Park, the history of this land may not be front of mind. It is easy to become lost in that endorphin fueled reverie common to those of us who calibrate the miles via landmarks just as easily as through our Garmins. A bend in the trail here, water fountain there, a lake, an old family cemetery, a hill… good Lord, those hills. We know this park intimately, at least the frequently traveled parts. But not everyone is privy to the deep history of the place. The more observant visitors among us might glimpse an occasional stone chimney just off the trail through winter-bare trees, standing sentry over a long-abandoned home site. These glimpses hint at the history, but there is so much more than meets the eye.

    A farming community transformed

    The area now encompassing Umstead State Park, was populated as early as 1800, as small farms sprung up in the area around Crabtree Creek in northwestern Wake County. By 1810, Anderson Page, an early entrepreneur and industrialist established a water-powered mill on Crabtree Creek, known first as Page’s Mill, then Company Mill. Other mills populated the area, including the George Lynn Mill on Sycamore Creek (1871), and a later mill on Reedy Creek.

    Wake County residents traveled from miles around along Old Middle Hillsboro Road, then south along Mill Road to Crabtree Creek to ground corn and catch up on local gossip. The Company Mill was in operation until the 1920’s and then largely washed away during a great flood in the 1930’s. Portions of a dam wall built at the mill site are still visible along the southern banks of Crabtree Creek within the park.

    As farms populated the area, forests of oak and pine were largely cleared for fields. Early farming was marginally successful, but poor cultivation practices led to soil depletion and erosion. Depression-era farmers made futile attempts to grow cotton in the worn-out soil around Crabtree Creek, but by the early 1930’s, landowners in the grip of financial ruin were bought out under the Resettlement Administration (RA), a federal agency created under the New Deal which relocated struggling urban and rural families to communities planned by the federal government. Through that process, in 1934 federal and state agencies combined to purchase 5,000 acres of sub-marginal land to develop a recreation area. Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and Works Progress Administration (WPA) work crews, largely staffed by North Carolinians, built facilities including Camp Sycamore on Sycamore Lake, and other campsites.

    By 1943, with World War II underway and New Deal programs winding down, the State of North Carolina purchased this area, known as Crabtree Creek Recreation Area, for $1. The area was later named Crabtree Creek State Park.

    The legacy of Jim Crow

    Crabtree Creek State Park was segregated from the outset, with Camp Whispering Pines designated for African Americans on a pond at Reedy Creek. By 1950, one thousand acres of Crabtree Creek State Park was designated for use by African Americans, and named Reedy Creek State Park. The white entrance to Crabtree Creek was located off of Highway 70 in the north, while the black entrance to Reedy Creek was located to the south, at the terminus of Cary’s Harrison Avenue.

    The two parks were separated by the meandering Crabtree Creek which bisects the park roughly west to east. While this fixed boundary demarcated the space, fording at any number of points could easily breach the boundary. To make the separation more durable, stands of forest were often employed. Writing about improvements to the parks in 1950, the Raleigh News & Observer provided a perverse note of reassurance to white parents that a large forested buffer would separate the white and African American youth camps, stating that the two camps would be more than a mile apart at the Crabtree Creek dividing line.

    Reedy Creek State Park was one of just two facilities operated by the state park system designated for African American use, the other being Jones Lake State Park in Bladen County, southeast of Fayetteville. A third park, Hammocks Beach State Park was planned for minority use after it was donated to the state in 1961 by an association of African American teachers, however the park opened to all people following the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    In 1955, Crabtree Creek State Park was renamed for late Governor William B. Umstead, an advocate of environmentally friendly legislation who had recently died in office. In 1966, the two state parks were joined under the name William B. Umstead State Park, and both sections opened to all people. To this day, there is no road connecting the former white entrance at Highway 70, and the former black entrance at Harrison Avenue – a subtle reminder of the dark history of Jim Crow.

    Odd Fellows and Foxcroft Lake

    Over the decades, the Odd Fellows tract and other forested lands around the borders of Umstead have been used much like the park itself, for recreation and enjoyment of the outdoors. The Fraternal Order of Odd Fellows purchased their tract of land in 1958 and made it available to local Boy Scout troops for monthly meetings and overnight camps along the shores of Foxcroft Lake.  

    Continue reading on South by Southeast

  • 07/01/2020 9:37 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Written by Liz Adams, Research Associate at the UNC Institute for the Environment

    Do you know that the Old Reedy Creek Road through Umstead State Park serves as the “spine” for two state trail networks?

    Riding the trail on bicycle west to east between the Bull Durham Stadium and the Neuse River Trail on the NC Bikeway #2 on the (Mountains to Sea) Route or south to north from Sanford to the Virginia Border near Kerr Lake on the NC Bikeway #1 (East Coast Greenway), you travel through urban, suburban, and rural environments connecting many municipal and County parks and several downtown business districts. In addition, the trail provides users with the opportunity to access hundreds of acres of public open space in the triangle area including the Cities of Durham, Morrisville, Cary, Raleigh. The benefits of the trail to the local economy and the improved health of our residents is enormous.

    How many federal, state and local dollars have been invested in grants for construction of these trails? How is it possible that all this is at risk for a private rock quarry on public land managed by RDU Airport Authority?

    How will the RDU Airport Authority lease of the Odd Fellows Tract to Wake Stone Corporation for open pit mining quarry impact this critical multi-modal infrastructure?

    The proposed Wake Stone Quarry Expansion will be directly impacting the East Coast Greenway and US Bicycle Route 1 as both of those segments route through the Old Reedy Creek Road/Trail along side the proposed expansion of the open pit mining site. This trail will be impacted by two driveways into the industrial site during the construction phase that will be used by logging trucks and bridge building equipment.

    Here is the NC-DOT website that describes the NC DOT Bicycle Route 1, of which the Old Reedy Creek Road is a critical segment thru Umstead State park.


    The following East Coast Greenway Impact Report quantifies the impact of how critical this greenway is to our local economy and public health.


    Old Reedy Creek Road will be used by the logging trucks to clear the 105 acres of the site, and by trucks used to build a new bridge over Crabtree Creek. This is explicitly stated in the lease agreement between Wake Stone and RDU Airport Authority.

    “d) For purposes of conducting Lessee’s due diligence, including testing and exploratory operations, during the Option/Testing Period, and timber removal upon execution of the Minderal Lease until construction by the Lessee of the bridge across Crabtree Creek is complete and operational, Lessee may use Reedy Creek Road to access the Premises. Thereafter Lessee will not use Reedy Creek Road as a primary access point to the Premises and will not haul quarry or excavated or mined materials over this road.”

    Continue reading on Medium.com

  • 06/28/2020 2:19 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Written by Alan Piercy

    “Providing science-based environmental stewardship for the health, safety and prosperity of ALL North Carolinians.” – North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ)– Mission Statement

    stewardship (stoo-erd-ship): 2. the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for or preserving – Dictionary.com

    For a regulatory body guided by such lofty ideals, it would seem a foregone conclusion that public land immediately adjacent a state park would not be suitable for a rock quarry. Certainly not if said park happened to be the most visited in the entire North Carolina State Park system, with nearly two million annual visitors. Certainly, given all the measurable deleterious environmental and public health impacts wrought by such a quarry, and the swiftly dwindling public green spaces available to Triangle residents, such a quarry would be rightly seen as a nuisance at best, and at worst, potentially ruinous to the state park system’s crown jewel. Surely, given that the quarry would compromise the health, safety, and prosperity of North Carolinians, such a circumspect regulatory body would summarily dismiss the mining permit in question.

    Well, it’s complicated.

    How we got here

    The Odd Fellows tract as it is known, is a 105-acre parcel of land immediately adjacent to William B. Umstead State Park, along Reedy Creek trail. The parcel is bordered by Umstead Park to the north, I-40 to the south, Lake Crabtree County Park to the west, and the current Wake Stone Corporation quarry to the east. This tract of public land was deeded to four local governments – Wake County, Durham County, the City of Raleigh and the City of Durham, in a July, 1976 transfer from the Sir Raleigh Lodge 411 of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows to those governmental entities.

    RDU Airport Authority (RDUAA) manages this land on behalf of the owning municipalities under legislation passed by the North Carolina General Assembly following that 1976 sale. NC General Statute 63.56(f), states:

    “no real property and no airport, other air navigation facility, or air protection privilege, owned jointly, shall be disposed of by the board (i.e. RDUAA), by sale, or otherwise, except by authority of the appointed governing bodies, but the board may lease space, area or improvements and grant concessions on airports for aeronautical purposes or purposes incidental thereto.”

    This 105 acre parcel of land has been the focus of a years-long struggle between a private corporation bent on expanding operations and private citizens organizing to save not just the 105 acres, but the sanctity of Umstead State Park, and the rights of impacted landowners. This struggle unfolds in fits and starts while the governing bodies that own this public land sit strangely quiet.

    In 1980, Wake Stone Corporation initially submitted an application for a mining permit for a tract just east of Odd Fellows, where their current mine is now in operation. That original permit was initially denied by the NCDEQ, which cited the “combined effects of noise, sedimentation, dust, traffic and blasting vibration associated with the proposed quarry and the impacts upon William B. Umstead State Park.”

    What followed was an appeal by Wake Stone and a series of reviews by various state agencies, including NCDEQ and North Carolina State Parks. Ultimately, the mining permit was approved in 1981 with a few caveats, including a substantial buffer between the quarry pit and Umstead, a donation to the State Park system, and a clause in the permit which would effectively sunset mining operations within 50 years, or ten years after mining operations cease, whichever of those came sooner.

    The “sooner” verbiage in that 50 Year Sunset Clause would effectively halt operations by Wake Stone in 2031 at the latest, at which time the land would be turned over to the State of North Carolina.

    Over the next 37 years, Wake Stone filed numerous renewals for this mining permit with no alteration to the 50 Year Sunset Clause. However, in March 2018, Wake Stone filed a mining permit modification, which substituted the “sooner” language with “later”, effectively negating the 50 Year Sunset Clause, and enabling mining and possibly even expansion into perpetuity. This modification was completed by NCDEQ staff under the supervision of an Interim DEQ Director, William “Toby” Vinson without the requisite Permit Modification Application or fees. Neither North Carolina State Parks, nor affected landowners and businesses were consulted about the change. 

    Subsequently, RDUAA signed a mineral lease with Wake Stone Corporation on Friday, March 1, 2019 with 48 hours of public notice. The “lease” would allow Wake Stone to create a new rock quarry pit within the 105-acre publicly owned Odd Fellows tract. This lease was completed without the consultation or approval of the owning municipalities, and with little to no window for public comment.

    Make no mistake, this agreement is not a lease in any realistic sense of the word. Imagine leasing a car, and returning it to the dealer at the end of the lease period with the wheels, seats, engine and dashboard removed. Moreover, imagine the dealer agreeing to the removal of those items at the outset of the lease. It is unimaginable because that is not how leases work. Such is the jaded and farcical nature of RDUAA’s agreement with Wake Stone.

    The Public Responds

    Following the RDUAA/Wake Stone lease, the Umstead Coalition and Triangle Off-Road Cyclists, as well as adjacent landowners Randy and Tamara Dunn and Wake County resident Bill Doucette filed a lawsuit against the RDUAA and Wake Stone Corporation with the following requests:

    • Municipalities must provide approval for disposal of their mineral rights – this approval has not been obtained.
    • The RDUAA has exceeded their authority granted by the State Legislature.
    • The signed lease of March 1, 2019 is not valid, and therefore should be nullified until the governing bodies approve the sale of their mineral rights.

    Meanwhile, The Conservation Fund, a non-profit environmental preservation group based in Arlington, VA, offered $6.46 million to purchase the Odd Fellows tract and donate the land to William B. Umstead State Park. RDUAA declined this offer, citing the wildly optimistic potential for $24 million in revenue from the Wake Stone lease over two decades. However, that amount is not stipulated in the lease. Wake Stone only guarantees $8.5 million in back-loaded payments, and the present value of the lease is $4.6 million.

    What could explain RDUAA’s decision to 1) enter into an unlawful lease – and 2) decline a $6.46 million lump sum sale in lieu of a lease valued at $4.6 million to be paid in installments over 20 years? Can you say good ole boy politics?

    John Bratton, the founder of Wake Stone Corporation, as well as his sons, John, Jr (Vice Chairman of the Board of Wake Stone), Theodore Bratton (CEO) and Samuel Bratton (President), have made tens of thousands of dollars in political donations to various campaigns, both Democratic and Republican over the decades. It would appear those donations have purchased the silence of the owning municipalities, run by politicians who have been the benefactors of Bratton largesse over the years. The Brattons are calling in those favors in an effort to expand their quarry operations onto public land.

    Where we are, and next steps

    In April 2020, Wake Stone Corporation filed a mining permit application for the Odd Fellows tract. A public hearing was held by the NCDEQ on Tuesday, June 23, 2020, which included over 570 virtual attendees and 78 speakers over the course of several hours, all of whom used their allotted two minutes to speak out against the expanded quarry, with the lone exception of Wake Stone’s John Bratton. The attendance was so great that the hearing was adjourned after 10pm and an overflow hearing was scheduled for July 7, 2020.

    From the standpoint of environmental impact and quality of life for Triangle area residents, the idea of a quarry expansion onto the Odd Fellows tract should be a non-starter.

    Continue reading on South by Southeast

  • 06/23/2020 9:34 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Written by Liz Adams, Research Associate at the UNC Institute for the Environment

    Is the RDU Airport Authority following the law to quarry public land?

    This isn’t the first time that RDU Airport has requested permission to quarry land surrounding the airport for a runway.

    Title IV of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 4231) proclaimed a national policy of inter-governmental coordination and cooperation. The objectives of this act rest on the premise that the economic and social development of the Nation and the achievement of a satisfactory level of living depend upon the sound and orderly development of all areas, both urban and rural. The act requires that the President establish rules and regulations for uniform application in formulating, evaluating, and re- viewing Federal programs and projects to insure orderly development.

    Such rules are to provide for concurrent achievement of the following objectives: (1) appropriate land use, (2) conservation of natural resources, (3) balanced transportation systems, (4) adequate outdoor recreation, (5) protection of areas of unique beauty or historical or scientific interest, and (6) properly planned community facilities and concern for high standards of design. The rules are also to require, when possible, that:

    — Full consideration be given national, regional, State, and local objectives, needs, and viewpoints in planning, evaluating, and reviewing Federal and federally assisted development programs and projects.

    — All Federal aid for urban development purposes be consistent with and further the objectives of State, regional, and local comprehensive planning when such objectives are consistent with national objectives.

    — All systematic planning of individual Federal programs be coordinated with and made part of comprehensive local and area wide development planning.

    https://www.faa.gov/documentLibrary/media/Order/1200.21B.pdf https://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/ByArticle/Chapter_63/Article_6.html

    § 63–5. Airport declared public purpose; eminent domain. Any lands acquired, owned, controlled, or occupied by such cities, towns, and/or counties, for the purposes enumerated in G.S. 63–2, 63–3 and 63–4, shall and are hereby declared to be acquired, owned, controlled and occupied for a public purpose, and such cities, towns and/or counties shall have the right to acquire property for such purpose or purposes under the power of eminent domain as and for a public purpose. (1929, c. 87, s. 5.)

    § 63–50. Airports a public purpose.

    The acquisition of any lands for the purpose of establishing airports or other air navigation facilities; the acquisition of airport protection privileges; the acquisition, establishment, construction, enlargement, improvement, maintenance, equipment and operation of airports and other air navigation facilities, and the exercise of any other powers herein granted to municipalities, are hereby declared to be public, governmental and municipal functions exercised for a public purpose and matters of public necessity, and such lands and other property, easements and privileges acquired and used by such municipalities in the manner and for the purposes enumerated in this Article, shall and are hereby declared to be acquired and used for public, governmental and municipal purposes and as a matter of public necessity. (1945, c. 490, s. 3.)

    § 63–53. Specific powers of municipalities operating airports. To lease such airports or other air navigation facilities, or real property acquired or set apart for airport purposes, to private parties, to any municipal or State government or to the national government, or to any department of either thereof, for operation; to lease to private parties, to any municipal or State government or to the national government, or any department of either thereof, for operation or use consistent with the purpose of this Article, space, area, improvements, or equipment on such airports; to sell any part of such airports, other air navigation facilities or real property to any municipal government, or to the United States or to any department or instrumentality thereof, for aeronautical purposes or purposes incidental thereto, and to confer the privileges of concessions of supplying upon its airports goods, commodities, things, services and facilities; provided that in each case in so doing the public is not deprived of its rightful, equal, and uniform use thereof.

    The Odd Fellows Tract was obtained by the RDU Airport Authority for a “Public Purpose”, therefore it must not be leased to a private party if the public is deprived of its rightful, equal and uniform use. The Odd Fellows Tract has served as public recreational land since before the land was acquired by the airport. The public will be deprived of its rightful, equal and uniform use of the hiking, biking, and fishing areas on the Odd Fellows Tract.

    Continue reading on Medium.com

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