All posts tagged: #save rdu forest

Opinion: The Wake Stone quarry should be rejected for these reasons

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, …

Memories of the Odd Fellows tract from Ron Sutherland. Photos by the Ghost of Odd Fellows

Ron Sutherland, chief scientist with the Wildlands Network who led the successful activist efforts to save the 79,000-acre Hoffmann Forest in 2015, recalls what the Odd Fellows tract looked like in the ’80s, when he was a Boy Scout roaming through the woods and playing capture the flag. I asked Dr. Sutherland what he remembered, and his memories came out uninterrupted and still very clear from more than 30 years ago. Here are his comments. The photos are by the anonymous “Ghost of Odd Fellows.” The full portfolios of the photos can be seen here and here. It was the place to go in camp for our Boy Scout troop. We didn’t need to do much. We could just go out there on pretty short notice and go out and camp. It was kind of a home away from home for the Boy Scouts. It took all of ten minutes to get there. We didn’t feel like we were in a small, tightly regulated state park. It felt like it was the woods that belonged …

Save RDU Forest issue: Top comments from the public hearing

After years of activism and back-and-forth between the Raleigh-Durham International Airport and the Umstead Coalition, the public hearings on Wake Stone’s proposed quarry brought out hundreds of speakers with Save RDU Forest, local residents and Wake Stone. And it was all over Zoom. The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality held the hearing on June 23 and then continued it in July to fit in all the speakers. The proposed quarry in the 105-acre Odd Fellows tract has led to heated and passionate arguments on both sides. Here is a timeline of the Save RDU Forest issue for a refresher. Although the fight exploded in March 2019, when the lease was signed with Wake Stone, the issue goes back July 2017. At that time, the Umstead Coalition, The Conservation Fund and Triangle Off-Road Cyclists offered to buy the Odd Fellows tract for $6.5 million. In 2015, the airport also tried to swap more than 300 acres with Umstead Park without notifying the coalition. There were more than 80 speakers and Zoom-held hearing lasted the better part …

Save RDU Forest issue: What happened with the “sunset clause”?

In the contentious fight between Umstead Coalition and activists, Wake Stone Corp. and Raleigh-Durham International Airport, one major point of argument has been over the “sunset clause.” That is the clause in the permit for the existing Wake Stone mine that states how long the mine can operate. That mine, located off Harrison Avenue, has been operating since 1981. The gaps in the trees can be seen from Interstate 40, and fly rocks have leaped over the buffers. It was expected to close at the end of its 50 years, at the latest. But in March 2018, Morrisville-based Wake Stone and the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality made an administrative change to the wording on the permit, from 50 years or 10 years after mining stops, whichever comes “sooner,” to 50 years or “later.” This change has raised alarm bells at the Umstead Coalition, the nonprofit that preserves the 5,600-acre William B. Umstead Park, located just north of the mine. The coalition has been embroiled in a fight with Wake Stone and RDU over a …

Save RDU Forest issue: RDU gets $49.5 million in coronavirus relief funding. Public hearing on quarry set for June 23

Raleigh-Durham International Airport has received $49.5 million in federal funding for the coronavirus crisis. Airport CEO Michael Landguth said in a news release that the money will help the airport stay afloat. “The CARES Act provides relief to airports at a time when revenue has dropped to unsustainable levels,” Landguth said. “The federal funding combined with our ‘survival budget’ will help RDU keep the lights on and financially stable during this unprecedented time in our industry.” RDU’s board approved the funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) on May 1. The boost comes to RDU as the proposed quarry on the 105-acre Odd Fellows tract by William B. Umstead Park goes to public comment. In March 2019, over the protests of local residents and the Umstead Coalition, the nonprofit that preserves the park, RDU leased the property to Morrisville-based Wake Stone Corp. to mine for $24 million in royalties over 35 years. On April 8, Wake Stone applied for a mining permit on the tract. Park supporters have said …

Save RDU Forest issue: Opponents of quarry and State Sen. Wiley Nickel request public hearing, or a delay until they can be held

The efforts of opponents to a proposed quarry next to William B. Umstead Park have attracted the support of Democratic state Sen. Wiley Nickel of Wake County, who recently expressed concerns about Wake Stone Corp.’s mining permit application because of the difficulties surrounding public hearings during the coronavirus crisis.

“Public hearings are an imperative part of permitting procedures. They allow the public a chance to react to plans for new development and raise awareness of potentially disastrous environmental or social impacts,” Nickel said in a recent news release. “On April 8, in the midst of an international public crisis, Wake Stone Corp. filed a mining permit application request… .”

RDU’s “Vision 2040” master plan is absurd

When Raleigh-Durham International Airport embarked on its $2.7 billion “Vision 2040” master plan in 2015, its facilities were actually the newest they had been in decades. Terminal 2, the main terminal at the airport, had been completed in 2011 at the cost of $570 million. The new 900,000-square-foot terminal featured designs from Fentress Architects and The Freelon Group. It had high undulating ceilings of beams made of Douglas firs, abundant natural light, a layout that was easy to navigate, and connections for travelers with laptops. It was the most modern terminal the airport had had in a long time. Terminal 1, the old “blue box,” as it was known, also had just finished renovating in 2014. Far from being dilapidated and spent, the RDU’s facilities in early 2015 were the newest they had been for decades. It was the culmination of the work of the airport’s 1994 master plan. So the question is: Why did RDU officials insist on doing a new master plan at all when its facilities were mostly new? Actually, Raleigh-Durham International …

Why did RDU try to swap more than 300 acres with Umstead Park in 2015?

In 2015, attendance at North Carolina’s state parks was up. The park system was riding on a historic high, celebrating its centennial. The first state park had been created at Mount Mitchell in 1915. At an event at William B. Umstead State Park, then-Gov. Pat McCrory designated the first week of March “North Carolina State Parks Week.” Then, out of nowhere came a bill to swap more than 300 acres between Umstead and Raleigh-Durham International Airport. At one point, Senate Bill 486 blithely calls for 206 acres, the western chunk of Umstead Park closest to the airport — “Polygon F” on the map helpfully provided — to go to RDU. Primary sponsors of Senate Bill 486 were John Alexander, Republican senator from Wake County, Andrew Brock, Republican senator from Mocksville, and Republican senator Tamara Barringer of Cary. Other sponsors were Democratic senator Ben Clark of Cumberland and Hoke counties, and Republican senator Bill Cook, representing the 1st district which includes Beaufort, Dare and other counties on the coast. According to an N&O story from May …

Save RDU Forest: A timeline

An ongoing timeline for all major developments in the Save RDU Forest issue. March 2015: NC State Parks system celebrates its centennial at Umstead Park on March 5. The first state park was created in 1915 at Mount Mitchell. At the event, Gov. Pat McCrory designates the first week of March as “North Carolina State Parks Week.” March 2015: NC legislature bill filed on March 26 proposes to swap more than 300 acres between Umstead and RDU, much to the surprise of The Umstead Coalition, the nonprofit that preserves the park. The bill eventually failed in the Senate. June 2015: Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority begins the planning process for its $2.7 billion Master Plan “Vision 2040.” March 2016: Voters pass $75 million bond for state parks. October 2016: RDU holds last public workshop on the plan. October 2016: The RDUAA board unanimously approves the “Vision 2040” plan on Oct. 20, 2016. July 2017: The Conservation Fund, an Arlington, Va.-based conservation group, Umstead Coalition, the nonprofit that preserves Umstead Park, and Meetup group Triangle Off-Road Cyclists offer …

What is Save RDU Forest?

The landscape around the 105-acre “Odd Fellows” property is serene during winter. Although it’s right by Interstate 40, a quarry is just feet away, and although construction equipment have begun to move into the area, the landscape is still a healthy forest, with old hardwoods reaching at the sky and ferns underneath. In March, the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority’s Board leased the property to Knightdale-based Wake Stone Corp. for mining over 25 years for $24 million. The Umstead Coalition and others say the agreement would not be able to generate as much revenue for the airport as projected, and that more alarmingly, a lease for a quarry cannot be a real lease since the land will not be returned in the same condition. The Odd Fellows tract as it is, with all of its trees, water and animals, will cease to exist. “Save RDU Forest” is the ongoing effort by the Umstead Coalition to save the property. “We have been actively involved since 2016,” said Jean Spooner, chairwoman of the Umstead Coalition. The coalition preserves the …