Written by Dr. Jean Spooner, Chair, The Umstead Coalition
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.
The Umstead Coalition is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
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