Local News

Bikers, hikers protest RDU possibly eliminating park

Posted August 19, 2016 6:24 p.m. EDT

— Bicyclists and hikers would like to ground a proposal to develop natural areas near Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

RDU's long-range plan includes the potential of building an office park and luxury hotels on the hundreds of wooded acres south of Interstate 40 that currently comprise Lake Crabtree County Park.

"To quote John Mayer, they want to pave paradise and put up a parking lot. That's not what I want," hiker Joseph Costa said Friday.

Several groups opposed to the proposal are circulating a petition and are organizing a protest from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at Rally Point Sports Grill on Harrison Avenue.

The airport owns the land but leases it to Wake County for the park, but opponents said development would destroy popular trails that have been used for decades.

"This is Central Park for us. This is a gem. This is a diamond in the rough," mountain biker Natalie Lew said.

RDU spokesman Andrew Sawyer said developing the property could generate revenue the airport might need for future expansion.

"We've been very open and honest that, at some point in the future, that land may need to revert back to aviation needs," Sawyer said. "But it may not. We're too early in this process to know."

Opponents say the airport could sell the land to the county or the state if it needs money, and the land could be kept natural.

"What's going to bring tourism dollars into Wake County? A huge recreational space, a wilderness space," Lew said.

Sawyer said the Federal Aviation Administration would have to approve such a sale, which he said would be unlikely.