Local News

Bikers, hikers want RDU to leave Lake Crabtree park as is

Posted August 25, 2016 4:49 p.m. EDT

— Bicyclists and hikers continue to protest 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 generate revenue the airport might need for future expansion.

Dozens of opponents rallied outside of a Thursday luncheon in downtown Raleigh where airport officials discussed the plans. RDU spokeswoman Kristie VanAuken stressed that the Vision 2040 plan isn't set in stone and that airport officials still invite community input.

Cyclists and hikers want to hold RDU to that pledge.

"Even if it's 20 years down the road, I still think that having a recreation space that could actually be a tourism draw – a revenue stream for the airport and for the surrounding community – is much more beneficial to the Research Triangle as a whole than is putting office buildings, a quarry or parking lots, which you find in every other city around the country," mountain biker Natalie Lew said.

"I'm a big supporter of the airport, but they also have the community interest," said Sig Hutchinson, vice chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. "They're not just a corporate entity that just has shareholders. They're a community interest that has stakeholders."

Morrisville Mayor Mark Stohlman scheduled a planning meeting for 6 p.m. Thursday at Town Hall to discuss ways to prevent RDU from developing the Lake Crabtree park area.

RDU officials say they've heard the input of hundreds of community members, including park backers. If a recreational use proves best for the airport, then it could remain what it is, VanAuken said.

"We love those parks, too," she said. "Believe me, we are not anti-park. What we are is pro-airport, and we need to ensure that the civil aviation infrastructure is here to meet the demands of this community."