This past weekend, RDU Forest advocates celebrated the RDU Airport Authority’s recent announcement to work with Wake County to expand Lake Crabtree County Park and to reconsider the future of the Odd Fellows tract, preserving its significant contribution to outdoor recreation and quality of life in our growing region. We reached out to RDU Forest for comment, and Rex Schaberg was kind enough to draft the following article.
The Odd Fellows tract (a roughly 105 acre tract designated as “Tract 1″ in the recent RDU Airport Authority RFP which solicited bids for non-aviation land-use) is in many ways a cornerstone for several important recreational and quality-of-life-initiatives here in the Triangle. The Airport has entertained an offer to lease the site for a new crushed aggregate quarry in the heart of Cary. It otherwise has no potential for commercial development (and will have even less if it is quarried into an enormous hole over the next 25 years), and it is unneeded for aviation. However, the land has considerable non-commercial value.
Resting on the shoulder of I-40, it offers a logical conduit to connect Triangle green-way and bike-commuter corridors. Without this parcel, such connectivity becomes problematic. It has long been a camping campus for area Boy Scouts, fostering values of self-reliance, community engagement and environmental stewardship. More recently, it has emerged as the most critical piece of property to address the need for a protected ride area for regional mountain bikers, as there are few approved ride sites within the Triangle, despite the explosive growth in popularity of the sport in recent years– the Odd Fellows tract offers some of the most advanced and sophisticated trail-terrain in the Triangle, and is therefore important and irreplaceable.
Additionally, the acceptance of a Conservation Fund offer to purchase this parcel (in order to subsequently donate it to Umstead State Park) from the Airport at a fair market value of $6.5 million would unlock an additional 150 acres of Umstead State Park, currently closed to mountain biking. These holdings, in combination with the existing Crabtree County Park, would constitute a unique urban recreational resource. The Airport Authority Board recently met and rejected both the aggregate quarry offer and the Conservation Fund purchase offer.
Either RFP offer could be reconsidered at any time at the sole discretion of the Airport Authority, subject to the approval of the Airport Board. Therefore the only real tangible effect of the rejection is to delay a decision about the fate of the Odd Fellows tract until a future date. It remains critically important that all the folks who want to see this tract protected for recreation communicate that need to their friends, local businesses, and the Airport Authority Board. The prudent course is for the Airport Authority to accept the Conservation Fund’s purchase offer, thus providing the Airport with immediate revenue, and ensuring the tract may ultimately be conveyed to Umstead State Park to provide decades of future recreational use.
In summation, the rejection of these offers By the RDU Board will allow us more time to find a win win solution, which will hopefully result in trail preservation. We need the community to be diligent in signing the petition and making their voices heard in opposing a future quarry. Business owners should consider offering their support as well. Please see www.rduforest.com for more details.