Science & Technology



Can a quarry and NC state park make good neighbors? Two views from across Crabtree Creek

Richard Stradling, The News & Observer on

Published in Science & Technology News

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. -- After it passes under Interstate 40, Crabtree Creek forms a boundary between William B. Umstead State Park and Wake Stone Corp.’s Triangle Quarry.

On one side, people hike under a canopy of trees on the Company Mill and Inspiration trails, getting exercise and seeking refuge from the traffic and noise that surround the park.

Across the creek, up a hill and behind a concrete barrier, workers have been blasting and crushing rock for 42 years. The trucks that haul it away to construction sites share the road that people use to enter Umstead from Cary.

Whether the quarry and the park have been good neighbors is at the heart of the conflict over whether Wake Stone should be allowed to create a second quarry on property owned by Raleigh-Durham International Airport. The fight over the proposed quarry continues to drag on eight years after it appeared in a draft of the airport master plan.

Sam Bratton, Wake Stone’s president and CEO, thinks the existing Triangle Quarry has been more than compatible with the park. Bratton cites a letter that Jean Spooner, the head of a coalition of groups that aims to protect the park, wrote in 1999.

Wake Stone Corp. was seeking approval for a new quarry in Chatham County and wanted some character references. It asked Spooner, head of The Umstead Coalition, to write about the company and its quarry.


“In the 10 years that I have been a member of The Umstead Coalition, I have never heard a complaint about Wake Stone’s operation next to Umstead,” she wrote. “Our experience with Wake Stone Corporation has been positive.”

Spooner says much has changed in 25 years. That letter doesn’t reflect her feelings or that of The Umstead Coalition for a host of reasons, she says, not least the company’s desire to build a second quarry on the park boundary.

Spooner and Bratton haven’t spoken to each other in years. Instead, amid the acrimony over the company’s plans to expand its operation next to Umstead onto the RDU land, the two sides communicate indirectly through lawsuits, press releases and yard signs.

Spooner, a retired extension professor from North Carolina State University, speaks for people who love the park and its nearly 5,600 acres of wilderness in the middle of a metro area of more than 2 million people. Many oppose sacrificing 105 acres of forested land next to the park for an open pit mine.


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