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Forested recreation in the heart of the Triangle 

RDU Quarry Blog

  • 06/28/2020 2:19 PM | Anonymous

    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

    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

  • 06/23/2020 4:28 PM | Anonymous

    Thank you to the 550 people who completed our survey! We had great representation from all over the Triangle ⁠— we'll release more results in the coming weeks.

    We created this image based on comments submitted.

  • 06/20/2020 9:31 PM | Anonymous

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

    The Cross Triangle Greenway ride now has a “bypass route” that avoids Umstead State Park. Was the route changed to avoid exposing cyclists to the the barbed wire fencing, dust, diesel emissions and blasting impacts of the new Wake Stone Quarry Pit #2? The bypass route is not on a protected greenway, it is on Dynasty, Electra and Trenton Drives through neighborhood streets. Bicyclists will need to navigate stoplights, parked cars, and conflicts with automobile traffic.

    2019 Invitation to Ride: “Celebrate the East Coast Greenway’s most complete metropolitan stretch with our Cross-Triangle Greenway Ride! Enjoy a scenic, recreational ride from Durham through Cary to Raleigh, North Carolina — all on protected greenways. 40-mile and 25-mile options are available for cyclists of all ability levels. The 40-mile option starts at 9 a.m. at SouthPoint Crossing Trailhead and the 25-mile option starts at 11 a.m. at Bond Park.”

    The East Coast Greenway connects 15 states, 450 cities and towns, and 3,000 miles of people-powered trails from Maine to Florida — the country’s longest biking and walking route.

    Continue reading on Medium.com

  • 06/18/2020 5:38 PM | Anonymous

    In order to preserve William B. Umstead State Park and continue to provide you with a high quality recreational experience, we are conducting a survey of trail users. Your cooperation in completing this survey will be greatly appreciated. 


  • 06/10/2020 4:43 PM | Anonymous

    In case you missed it! The recording of our podcast and video interview with The Triangle Talk Show is now available. 

    We talked about:

    • The RDU Quarry Public Hearing on June 23 — this may be one of the last public comment opportunities to stop the quarry
    • The Sunset Clause that was removed from the current Wake Stone mining permit, which would've closed the existing Triangle Quarry in 2031
    • The Conservation Fund's offer to purchase the land to add new single-track biking and pedestrian trails
    • Environmental and wildlife impacts including air and water quality degradation
    • The RDU Fence that will cross Halley's Branch and run along the East Coast Greenway and Umstead State Park's multi-use trail
    • How this quarry is more than just a local Triangle issue, but one that affects all of North Carolina and sets a new precedent for how public lands are handled in the state


    • Jean Spooner: Chair, The Umstead Coalition
    • Gil Johnson: Board member, The Umstead Coalition
    • David Anderson: Board member, Triangle Off-Road Cyclists (TORC)
    • Liz Adams: Former vice-chair, Capital Group Sierra Club and Research Associate at the UNC Institute for the Environment
  • 06/09/2020 5:07 PM | Anonymous

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

    The development of a quarry on public land by RDU Airport Authority is more than a local issue, there are state and federal policies and regulations that constrain how this public-purpose land may be developed.

    The East Coast Greenway bisects the public land that is managed by the airport, and is a 3,000-mile spine route, from Key West north to the Canadian border in Maine.

    RDU Airport Authority did not consult with the local governments who own the land, nor the neighboring municipalities of Cary and Morrisville, the State Park System, NC-DOT (owner of this segment of the East Coast Greenway), or FAA prior to signing the lease for the quarry.

    In their effort to “secure this public-purpose land”, RDU Airport Authority also designed and applied for permits to build a 2 million dollar (18 mile long, 8 ft tall barbed wire) fence that would cut-off access to Umstead State Park for users of this trail. RDU Airport Authority stated the purpose of the fence was to “Protect Wake Stone” from vandalism and “environmental damage” from off-road cyclists. They falsely represented the true purpose of the fence, which was to accelerate the development of the quarry on the Odd Fellows Tract.

    The East Coast Greenway runs from Maine to Florida, but it relies on local governments to ensure that adjacent land uses are compatible with the trail.

    RDU Airport Authority is a municipal corporation that has zoning and eminent domain power equivalent to cities. Yet, they have established no zoning board of adjustment, special use or public hearing policies.

    Where is RDU Airport Authority’s policy on multi-jurisdictional planning to ensure compatibility of the quarry with the municipalities that border their jurisdiction? Wake County has both a Comprehensive Plan and an Umstead Planning District that the quarry is incompatible with. Isn’t joint planning a requirement that must be followed by all municipal corporations (towns, cities, counties, and municipal corporations) including the RDU Airport Authority? The Towns of Cary and Morrisville have plans for high density development in the headwaters of Crabtree Creek that make this expansion of the quarry especially problematic.

    Five thousand people per day have been reported using the Umstead State Park Trail System during the COVID-19 pandemic. More and more people will be moving into this area to live in the high-density multi-family apartments that are in the current development pipeline.

    We need effective joint cross-jurisdictional urban planning to protect the East Coast Greenway and provide safe entryways into Umstead State Park. RDU Airport Authority must preserve access to recreational uses of public land that was taken for a public purpose. Doing so will promote the health and welfare of our citizens who rely on safe access to Umstead State Park and the recreational corridor that surrounds it.

    Density of Apartments in 2018. High Density Development is increasing near entrances to Umstead https://www.socialexplorer.com/c03106fdcc/view

    Continue reading on Medium.com

  • 06/06/2020 5:16 PM | Anonymous

    This blog post was submitted by Hwa Huang. Though he is a long-time member of the local Sierra Club Chapter and is actively working with the Umstead Coalition, the comments below are solely his, and not those of the Sierra Club or the Umstead Coalition.

    Now is your chance to help save Umstead Park from a private quarry on public lands.

    By now you must have heard about Wake Stone’s proposed quarry next to the Umstead State Park.

    Despite the many overwhelming problems facing the city and nation today – the pandemic and the righteous protests against police violence among them – Wake Stone continues to keep pushing forward with their desire to have their quarry next to the state park. Frustrating as it is to have to spend time on this issue with so many others raging, Wake Stone remains relentless.  Once again, this highlights Wake Stone’s lack of care for public well-being as they attempt to avoid public scrutiny.

    We want them to know that we are still watching, but we still need your help, now more than ever! There are so many reasons why the proposed quarry will be awful for the state park because of the following impacts (but not limited to them):

    • Polluted water, wetlands, and Neuse River Buffer
    • Wake Stone is trying to avoid getting new industrial stormwater and air quality permits, incorrectly claiming they will not have new sources from their new proposed quarry
    • Blasting noise and vibration in Umstead Park and nearby homes
    • Impaired air quality, dust and non-road truck emissions
    • Reduced safety at Umstead Park entrance to park due to conflicts with mining and logging trucks
    • Inadequate reclamation plan concerning post-mining uses, especially in areas closest to the park

    Here is how you can help us:

    1. Take a minute to take this survey, so that we can establish important data for the DEQ to understand just who they will be affecting if this quarry is to take place: https://forms.gle/tsk3HvZPxbPT2YpC6
    2. Take 10 seconds to register to speak at the public hearing on June 23, 2020, 6 PM. You should expect to have 2 minutes to talk about why the DEQ must reject Wake Stone’s permit application: https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=3IF2etC5mkSFw-zCbNftGeTQwlSeD1RIhOMcQI6ad6VUQjVROFJNNE9BMVlJM0I0RjdEVUtWUzRSQi4u&fbclid=IwAR0bKViHIqh4R8fTYTdCEdX53OqMDphrzq_-zzmyylECSKdWH7mLkIgVoTI  Please register before noon on June 23 – the sooner, the better.

    Do not worry about coming up with a script. Email info@umsteadcoalition.org to let the Umstead Coalition know you’ve signed up to speak, and they will reach out to you before the hearing date to work with you on what you will be saying on the big day.

    This is likely the LAST chance for public comments to stop the quarry. The public will have little opportunity to comment if this permit is granted. State law gives mines and quarries “life of site” permits, meaning that in most cases, they are automatically renewed – without further public comment.1

    [The Umstead Coalition’s lawsuit against the RDUAA “lease” with Wake Stone is still in the courts. Which means it’s in the hands of the lawyers and is NOT subject to any public comment.]

    Continue reading on Livable Raleigh

  • 06/06/2020 5:04 PM | Anonymous

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

    RDU Airport Authority justified not selling the Odd Fellows Tract to the Conservation Fund by claiming it would create an ‘Incompatible Use’ and violate ‘ Federal Grant Assurances’. Rather than allow the land to be purchased and added to Umstead State Park, they decided to destroy the land.


    “We Must Comply with Federal Regulations

    RDU and our owning bodies — the counties of Wake and Durham, and the cities of Raleigh and Durham — are required to prevent the creation of incompatible land uses to remain in compliance with federal grant assurances. This means that if RDU was to sell land that became a park, school, or residential dwelling, the Authority would violate those federal requirements.

    A Sale is Forever

    A sale is forever — once land is sold, it is near impossible to recapture. The Authority cannot predict all the future needs of RDU or how it will need property to accommodate these future needs. The only way we can maintain flexibility to meet future needs is by keeping ownership and control of the surrounding land so that your airport experience can remain exceptional for years to come.”

    The lease of the Odd Fellows Tract to Wake Stone for an 105 acre, 400 foot deep open pit quarry mine DOES NOT provide the airport with control of the land in case it is needed for future airport needs.

    Leasing the land to Wake Stone for an INCOMPATIBLE USE of an open pit mine does NOT comply with federal grant assurances.

    A 35 year lease to Wake Stone for a quarry will make the land unusable for any public purpose, including expanding an airport runway - FOREVER.

    RDU Airport Authority entered into a long term lease agreement which is effectively a SALE.

    RDU Airport Authority cannot sell any of the land on which the Airport is located, if held in the names of the cities and counties, without the unanimous consent of the Cities of Raleigh and Durham, Wake County and Durham County, which own the land along with the Authority. (1) It can, however, purchase land in its own name and can exercise the power of eminent domain to condemn privately held land and make it property of the Authority.

    G.S. 160A-272 establishes the procedures most local governments must use when leasing government-owned property. While leases of government-owned property typically involve real property, the statute also applies to personal property. The procedural requirements vary depending on the length of the lease, and can be divided into three categories:

    1. Leases for a term of one year or less: The governing board may approve the lease without any public notice, and may delegate approval authority to the manager.
    2. Leases for a term between one and 10 years: The lease must be approved by resolution adopted by the governing board at a regular meeting after public notice. The notice must be given by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the jurisdiction and must describe the property to be leased, state the annual lease payments, and announce the board’s intent to authorize the lease at its next regular meeting (notice by electronic means is not authorized).
    3. Leases for a term longer than 10 years: The lease must be treated as a sale, and the local government must follow one of the methods authorized for the sale of government property under Article 12 of G.S. Chapter 160A.

    This land was purchased by RDU Airport Authority for a public purpose using federal grant funds back the 1970s. RDU Airport Authority testified before the US Senate on Sept. 9, 1975 asking for additional federal funds with the following justification (2)

    Continue reading on Medium.com

  • 06/01/2020 3:57 PM | Anonymous

    By  State Law, the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) can deny a mining permit for any of the five following reasons:

    1. Adverse effect on the purposes of a publicly owned park, forest or recreation area
    2. Adverse effects on potable groundwater supplies, wildlife or fresh water
    3. Violating standards of air quality, surface water quality, or groundwater quality
    4. Hazard to public health and safety
    5. Hazard to a neighboring dwelling house, school, church, commercial or industrial building, public road or other public property
    Local public officials have the power to stop the quarry and the fence. We have provided some sample emails/letters here.

    You can email or mail your letters to the elected officials asking for the 50-year Sunset Clause to be reinstated and to deny the new mining permit for the Odd Fellows Tract.

    NC Office of the Governor

    20301 Mail Service Center

    Raleigh, NC 27699-0301

    When writing comments to DEQ, it's essential for your comments to directly relate to one or more of these five reasons for denial.


We are a coalition of residents, organizations, businesses, and entrepreneurs working towards preserving Lake Crabtree County Park, protecting Umstead State Park, and preserving the forested corridor that connects them.