Listen to this song from D. Mark Durrett.
“Paradise” Revisited By Misfits, with apologies to John Prine
When I was a child my family would travel Down to western Wake County where my parents had played And there’s some rocky old trails that are often remembered So many times that my memories did fade.
And daddy won't you take me back to western Wake County Near RDU runways where paradise lay Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking The airport authority done gave it away
Well, sometimes we'd travel to the outskirts of Cary To the gnome-crafted trails off Old Reedy Creek Road Where the air smelled like sludge but it just didn’t matter ‘cause bikin’ and hikin’ was the travelin’ mode And daddy won't you take me back to western Wake County Near RDU runways where paradise lay
Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking The airport authority done gave it away Then Wake Stone company came with the world's largest shovel And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land Well, they dug for their rocks ‘till the land was forsaken Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man.
And daddy won't you take me back to western Wake County Near RDU runways where paradise lay Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
The airport authority done gave it away The airport got pissy, like a grumpy old neighbor And they built a big wall to keep the tree huggers out
Well, they claimed it was better with no hikers and bikers “It is best for their safety and nature,” they’d shout And daddy won't you take me back to western Wake County Near RDU runways where paradise lay
Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking The airport authority done gave it away When I die let my ashes float down Crabtree Creek Let my soul roll on up to the Oddfellow’s Tract I'll be halfway to Heaven with 286 waitin'
Just hopin’ this song made somebody react And daddy won't you take me back to western Wake County Near RDU runways where paradise lay Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking The airport authority done gave it away
On April 8, 2020, Wake Stone submitted a Mining Permit Modification Application for a new quarry pit on the Odd Fellows Tract adjacent to Umstead State Park.
NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will now evaluate that application. If there is sufficient public interest, they are required to hold a Public Hearing to get feedback on concerns regarding the permit application. So here's your chance to be heard and make a difference!
Please write a physical letter to DEQ and the Governor. You must send physical letters via snail mail and not email. Please mail them by April 25, 2020.
Brian Wrenn, Acting Director
N.C. DEQ Energy, Mineral and Land Resources
1612 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1612
Brian Wrenn, Acting Director
N.C. DEQ Energy, Mineral and Land Resources
1612 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1612
Governor Roy Cooper
North Carolina Office of the Governor
20301 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-0301
Governor Roy Cooper
North Carolina Office of the Governor
20301 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-0301
Request for in-person Public Hearing: Wake Stone Corporation Application for Permit 92-10 Modification, Triangle Quarry, 222 Star Lane, Cary, North Carolina 27513
(i.e., object to creating a new quarry pit on the public Odd Fellows Tract adjacent to Umstead State Park, Crabtree Creek, a major greenway and a private home)
Include the following requests. Keep your letters brief and to-the-point:
Request to deny Wake Stone Corporation’s Application for Permit 92-10 Modification and not allow a new rock quarry pit on the west side of Crabtree Creek
Request to hold an in-person public hearing
Request that a public hearing of any kind not be held until after Governor Cooper's Statewide Stay-at-Home Order is lifted
Be sure to include your full name and mailing address in the letter submitted.
View the Wake Stone Mining Application here>>
Judge Issues Injunction Against Wake Stone Corporation, Confirms Merit in Umstead Coalition and TORC's Contentions that the RDU Airport Authority Has Failed to Follow Federal Regulations and State Law
Judge Shirley signed an Injunction on February 28, 2020 that prohibits Wake Stone Corporation from extracting rock from the Odd Fellows Tract until June 2022. The injunction also confirms that a Mining Permit would be required before any site clearing, bridge construction, or other mining activities (except exploratory for permit application) can occur on the site. There is no mining permit application yet submitted for this site.
Plaintiffs filed an appeal on Wednesday, December 4, 2019 asking to overturn a recent Wake County Superior Court judge’s ruling stating that the Raleigh Durham Airport Authority (RDUAA) did not exceed its authority under state law when it granted Wake Stone Corporation rights to mine a new quarry on airport land. We strongly disagree and believe RDUAA exceeded its authority by not first obtaining the approval of the four local government deeded owners.
“The fight is just beginning,” said Dr. Jean Spooner, Chair of The Umstead Coalition. “The proposed quarry represents a real threat to the priceless asset we have in Umstead State Park. We will continue the fight on appeal. We remain willing to be partners in much better alternatives that would preserve the Odd Fellows Tract, protect Umstead State Park, and provide the RDU Airport with more long-term, sustainable income streams.
Destroying the Odd Fellows tract jeopardizes that opportunity. Valid offers and letters of interest from the Conservation Fund and NC State Parks, for purchase and preservation have been dismissed. RDUAA incorrectly claims FAA regulations prevent such sales*.
“Litigation is only one means by which we can fix this mistake,” said David Anderson, Board member of the Triangle Off-Road Cyclists (TORC). “I’m thrilled by the broad-based support for protecting Umstead State Park, and want to encourage people to stick with this effort as we push for a better alternative that doesn’t place a new quarry pit on the park border.”
Opponents to the quarry argue that that RDUAA violated General Statute §63-56(f), which states that the RDUAA must obtain approval of its governing bodies before disposing of property “by sale, or otherwise” that will not be used for aeronautical purposes (see Editor’s Note).
About the Umstead Coalition:
The Umstead Coalition has been working since 1972 to support and protect William B. Umstead State Park through fundraising, sponsorship of volunteer activities, and oversight of environmental and legal protections. For more information.
About Triangle Off-Road Cyclists (TORC)
Triangle Off-Road Cyclists (TORC) is a volunteer organization dedicated to ensuring the future of mountain biking in the Triangle area of North Carolina through the promotion of responsible riding, establishment and maintenance of mountain biking trails, and preservation of North Carolina’s natural resources. TORC works with Wake County to maintain and enhance the single-track trails at Lake Crabtree County Park. For more information, visit http://torc-nc.org
# # #
EDITOR’S NOTE*: N.C. 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, 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.”
Download a PDF of the Press Release here.
Written by Hwa Huang, Group Chair, Sierra Club Capital Group. Letter to the Wake County Commissioners on February 28, 2020.
Dear Wake County Commissioners,
My name is Hwa Huang, and I am a constituent in Wake County. I am writing to you as the group chair of the local Sierra Club Capital Group, regarding the recent news that some of you were considering options for turning the “286” lands next to RDU Airport into a bike trail area.
I want to thank the commissioners for bringing these issues up to the table. However I am also concerned about the Airport Authority's plan to turn the Odd Fellows tract into a rock quarry, and its plan to potentially develop much of Lake Crabtree County Park.
The renewed “RDU Forest” discussions by the Wake County Commissioners have brought up a few questions that I was hoping the Wake County Commissioners can work with the Sierra Club Capital Group to resolve together:
It has been mentioned that the land above floodplain at Lake Crabtree County Park would be turned into an office park. How many of the single-track bike trails at Lake Crabtree are above the 100 year floodplain, and are therefore in jeopardy of being lost for the office park? What options does the County have to save these trails, or indeed the entire park
According to a recent article from the Triangle Business Journal, Wake Stone has proposed offering $3.6 million to Wake County for building trails at 286, which is still not off the table. I am concerned that taking the monetary offer from Wake Stone would result in the Wake County Commissioners being financially bound to a quarry they do not want. Furthermore, it has been reported that the North Carolina Division of Parks is willing to work on taking in 286 as part of the Umstead park land (and/or work with Wake County to develop alternative trail solutions for 286), and according to the letter from FAA to one of the members of The Umstead Coalition, the airport can in fact sell land (Letter here). Would the Wake County Commissioners pursue independent funding options without involving the proposed, not yet approved, quarry?
The Sierra Club Capital Group is deeply engaged in the issue, and we look forward to working with the Wake County Commissioners as well as with the state park together in moving forward to ensure the environmental integrity of Umstead State Park and its surrounding forested lands and wildlife corridors are protected. We want to ensure that these lands can remain safe for people seeking recreation as well as the wildlife.
I look forward to hearing your response.
Thank you very much.
Sierra Club Capital Group
The Umstead Coalition doesn't know who "The Ghost of Oddfellows" is, but we were copied on the email below in which they shared links to hundreds of beautiful photos of the Oddfellows Tract. Charles Morris, filmmaker of 400 Feet Down created this video with some of those photos. We're thankful "The Ghost of Oddfellows" has shared these photos so everyone can see the beauty of the land that will be destroyed with the new quarry.
"Dear elected officials, environmental leaders, and members of the press,
I'm sure most of you are aware of the proposal by the RDU Airport Authority to lease the 105-acre "Oddfellows" tract, also known as RDU Forest, to Wake Stone to build a 400-ft deep rock quarry on the southwest flank of Umstead State Park.
What has been missing from the debate, as far as I can tell, is any real appreciation by the media, elected officials, or the general public for just how beautiful and special the Oddfellows tract of woods really is. Few people besides Boy Scouts and mountain bikers have ever been out there, which works to RDUAA and Wake Stone's unfair advantage.
So as a citizen of Durham or Wake Counties, and thus as a co-owner of this public forest, I decided to share my best photos of Oddfellows with you so you can judge for yourself whether this land deserves to be turned into a pit in the ground.
Three teaser images are attached to this message. This dropbox folder has the top 50 photos along with a couple of maps - note that you can view the photos without downloading anything: https://www.dropbox.com/…/feqf5n…/AAD46LOOalEpZgb6nQG2BAy7a…
This folder has a larger set of 369 Oddfellows images that I've put together (selected out of 800+ total photos), to give you a more comprehensive appreciation for the forest and the land - almost as good as visiting yourself!
And this folder contains, for comparison purposes, a small set of images of the current Wake Stone quarry, to help you and the public visualize what a 400-ft hole in the ground will look like.
I give free license to everyone to use, share, and republish these photos - please share with everyone you can! Also, please download them soon for better viewing and easier sharing, and in the off chance that this dropbox account gets taken down. If you need higher resolution versions of any of the images or have questions about what you're seeing just let me know.
Note: no organization or individual asked me to undertake this project, it was done completely on my own time and at my own expense. Also note that I have zero interest in interrupting or interfering with the smooth and safe operations of RDU Airport.
As you'll see in a few of the photos, Wake Stone is already testing the ground at Oddfellows to get ready to start the process of destruction. So time is of the essence, please take whatever actions you can, as soon as you can, to make sure this beautiful and intriguing public forest stays intact for all Triangle residents to enjoy.
The Ghost of Oddfellows"
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.