1. RDU does not need the money.
When Raleigh-Durham International Airport’s leadership began work on the “Vision 2040” master plan in 2015, the airport was the most modern it had been in decades. The top executives and the board of RDU had basically inherited a perfect airport, the culmination of decades of planning and work.
So why is it that by 2019, RDU signed a lease with Morrisville-based Wake Stone to mine the Odd Fellows tract for $24 million over 35 years?
RDU also recently got $49.5 million in federal aid for coronavirus relief. Before that, it received about $61.5 million total in federal and state capital contributions for the past three years.
On top of that, RDU has posted jumps to its bottomline in recent years. For fiscal year 2018-2019, ending in March 2019, the airport’s net position increased by $128.2 million. In 2018, it increased by $56.3 million. In 2017, it was $26.4 million.
The airport has had passenger total booms in recent years that are just reset by the coronavirus. In 2015, its passenger totals were closer to historic norms, at 9.94 million, according to the FAA. In 1992, it was 9.93 million.
So while RDU has had a temporary increase in traffic, it also reaped more than $100 million in federal and state funding, and increased its profit. Where is the financial need for this project?
2. The destruction of the Odd Fellows tract would be a nightmarish outcome for this area.
Having two quarries by Umstead Park is not something most people want. Neither is having Crabtree Creek suspended above two quarries. That’s not a natural state for a river. Or having a place that was used by Boy Scouts and has quartz stones on the ground, beech trees, pine, oak, and pretty ravines be destroyed.
If it’s approved, then this will be destructive of nature, and real memory and experience and real need, for temporary and false claims.
Symbolically, this would be a nightmarish outcome.
The economic and political side of what’s been going on will take time to figure out. Right now, the natural resources need to be protected.
3. What the Odd Fellows tract is and what it could be.
The Odd Fellows tract, I think of more as an extension of Morrisville and Cary. It’s one of those suburban wilderness areas that we have in the Triangle that you pass on I-40 or I-440, and with the view of the pine trees your mind wanders, and you think of nature and the world in new ways. Maybe you’ll explore it one day, but it’s very likely you will not. It’s just another part of the landscape of this area. But it would be a surprise and delight to people who do go there, to see it has a lake, and quartz stones on the ground, stones in the trees put there by Boy Scouts, a quarry nearby that has had so much fight and stories put into it, and Crabtree Creek flows through it, going from Cary into Umstead Park and then to Raleigh.
Different people get different things out of it. Jean Spooner pointed out the Great Depression history of the area, how so much of the typography happened as a result of the needs of that time. The rivulets on a hill are actually erosion from over-farming. The “Ghost of Odd Fellows,” the style of the photography and the comments feel like someone who is probably Gen X or older, someone who got their science education in the pre-digital era who sees nature in a very whole, classical way. Ron Sutherland talked about how the area has a timeless, mythical quality.
For me, I would like that land to be left alone. I think that in terms of this area, the Odd Fellows land is a place that’s out of your awareness but imparts interesting things when you go. It’s easier for me to see it through other people’s perspective than to experience it myself. I can’t think of another spot that’s exactly like that. It’s a place that’s not quite a garden, not quite wilderness, but something else.
Maybe the Odd Fellows tract could be left alone for future odd fellows.