Activists frustrated as RDU moves ahead with plans for fence around property

MORRISVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- At a time when activists are appealing a court ruling in favor of a quarry expansion on the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority's property, the airport is moving ahead with plans to install an eight-foot-tall chain-link fence around its property, further exasperating people fighting to preserve the land for conservation and recreational use.

RDU tweeted a video this week, in which staff said they aimed to dispel myths about the proposed fencing that activists claim would cut off access to Umstead State Park, which shares a border with the airport.

"Activists are spreading misinformation about RDU's proposed perimeter fencing as a scare tactic to further their agenda," said Stephanie Hawco, Director of Media Relations for RDUAA in a statement sent to ABC11. "RDU is working with North Carolina State Parks to ensure that the perimeter fence does not block access to Umstead State Park or the multi-use trail that crosses airport property. The proposed perimeter fencing is in the design phase and is intended to enhance security and keep trespassers off of airport land."

According to the current Request for Bid for an Enhanced Security Perimeter Fence on RDU's website, the fence is charted to cut twice across a popular multi-use trail where it intersects RDU property.

"Certainly the fence just seems like another blow to our way of life here," said Matt Thompson, an advocate with the group RDU Forest. "And I'm hopeful we can work out an amicable solution with the airport and move things forward in a positive direction. When I saw that map it was pretty crushing."

The project timeline included with the RFB shows designs for the fence will begin Thursday, with clearing set for Monday.

Meanwhile, Wake Stone Corporation is moving ahead with the permitting process to expand its existing Triangle Quarry onto the adjacent 105-acres of airport-owned land.

"We do feel there is a significant need for our material for the growth of this community which is expanding significantly and will continue to expand," said Sam Bratton, Wake Stone Corp. Pres.

In March, the RDUAA approved the land-lease agreement with the Raleigh-based family-owned business that is expected to generate about $24 million at a time when Hawco said the airport has nearly $2 billion in unfunded infrastructure needs.

Wake Stone has agreed to provide funding for leasing airport land for mountain biking recreation and reclaiming the 105-acre site at the end of its long-term lease to include recreational features.

"We have come up with a proposal that provides an economic benefit for the airport and a compromise solution that provides for recreational opportunity for these mountain bikers and people that are opposed," Bratton said.

In November, Wake County Superior Court Judge Graham Shirley ruled in favor of the RDUAA in a lawsuit filed by the Umstead Coalition, Triangle Off-Road Cyclists, and others opposed to the land-lease agreement.

Those activist groups filed an appeal last week and plan to keep fighting the proposed quarry in court.
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