By all accounts Umstead State Park is flourishing. It consistently ranks one of the most-visited parks in North Carolina, welcoming more than a million people annually — all while Raleigh-Durham International Airport and two quarries have operated for decades on adjacent properties.
One of those quarries is owned by Wake Stone Corporation, of which I am CEO. Most people don’t even know it exists, even though thousands of cars pass it daily on I-40. This will continue to be the case with the quarry expansion.
After years of stakeholder engagement and due diligence, in 2019 the RDU Airport Authority leased 105-acres adjacent to the existing Triangle Quarry off Old Reedy Creek Road to Wake Stone to expand operations. Since then, Wake Stone has been actively seeking modifications to its existing mining permit to expand operations.
Wake Stone has been a good neighbor to Umstead State Park. In 1999, Jean Spooner, chair of the Umstead Coalition, wrote a letter of recommendation for Wake Stone. It stated, “Our experience with Wake Stone has been positive,” and she goes on to list specific actions taken by Wake Stone to protect riparian areas along Crabtree Creek, minimize runoff and protect a sensitive rhododendron area.
Despite the Triangle Quarry’s excellent track record, the quarry expansion is now facing resistance from Spooner’s Umstead Coalition and Natalie Lew, whose op-ed appeared Jan. 11.
This Umstead Coalition was recently defeated in a lawsuit in which they demanded their right to use the 105-acre land claiming it was public land, not the airport’s. Wake County Superior Court ruled against them and this ruling was later upheld by the N.C. Court of Appeals and N.C. Supreme Court. The ruling clearly states that RDU airport, not the public, owns the land, thus validating the lease to Wake Stone.
Regardless, this opposition group continues to fight publicly and distort facts, as demonstrated in Lew’s op-ed titled, “The state must do this to block mining near Umstead State Park.”
Lew contends the continued operation of the Triangle Quarry will harm Umstead State Park. This is false, as the park has flourished with the Triangle Quarry operating right next door for the last 40 years.
Under the terms of the airport’s lease with Wake Stone, the company will pay $3.6 million to lease an additional 150 acres of airport land for recreational use by cyclists. At the end of the mining, Wake Stone will spend another $3 million transforming the mined quarry into a public park, offering recreational opportunities similar to Winston-Salem’s Quarry Park.
Lew contends the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality illegally gutted a permit condition that allows the Triangle Quarry to operate beyond the year 2032. This claim was refuted by the N.C. Attorney General in a 2018 review.
If the state decides to modify the mining permit allowing Wake Stone to expand the Triangle Quarry, it will be after thorough and rigorous due diligence. The state will document the facts and its conclusions. And Wake Stone will continue to operate in Wake County in a neighbor-friendly way like it has for more than 50 years.
We are excited about the future of our growing region, including Umstead State Park’s continued success. Economic growth and outdoor recreation are not mutually exclusive, but go hand-in-hand. This is a win-win solution for the community that delivers significant outdoor recreation and economic benefits for the entire Triangle region.
Bratton is president and CEO of Wake Stone Corporation.