Triangle cyclists protest outside airport CEO speech

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Protesters outside the Raleigh Convention Center (WTVD)

Cyclists unhappy with Raleigh Durham International Airport's plans to develop greenspace around the airport protested outside CEO Michael Landguth's speech to the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitor's Bureau Thursday.

Members of the Triangle Off-Road Cyclists group (TORC) say they don't want to see the forested land around the airport turned into something else, and they're opposed to some of the proposals in RDU's "Vision 2040" master plan - including office space, hotels, and a quarry.

The group held signs reading "Keep RDU Green" and "Quality of Life Has Value." TORC leaders say preserving the extensive trail network on airport land has economic worth. They say such outdoor opportunities draw people and business to the Triangle.

"We think that's really the charm of this area. When you fly in on an airplane you see so much green. You see Falls Lake. You see trees, and I think that's a major attraction of this area," said James Rhew with TORC.

RDU does own the land adjacent to Umstead State Park which includes Lake Crabtree Park. On a website dedicated to the issue, TORC says roughly 100,000 of the 300,000 people who come to the park come to use the 9 miles of wooded trails.

The Crabtree property is leased to Wake County - an arrangement that started in 1985. Last year, the airport declined a new five-year agreement with county. Instead, the authority opted for a one-year deal that allows the authority to back out with a 45-day notice.

It's not just the Lake Crabtree property that could be developed. Vision 2040 includes more land east of Aviation Parkway, and north and south of I-40 that abuts Umstead State Park.

The airport plans on finalizing its master plan by the end of this year. Comments about the plan can be submitted on RDU's website.

TORC says it will continue to protest against development.

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