Michael Landuth, president and CEO of The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority, recognizes the need for caution and prudence when he talks about the airport’s long-term growth and maintenance plan. So Landuth wisely didn’t dismiss as “tree huggers” protesters who appeared at a presentation on planning Landuth attended at the downtown Raleigh Convention Center last week. The demonstrators were supporting their allies who signed a petition (5,000 of them) asking the RDU Authority to save 611 acres of forests and trails between Lake Crabtree County Park and William B. Umstead State Park.
Those holding the signs about keeping RDU “green” are right, by the way. It’s true Landuth has to balance the airport’s needs in terms of growth with environmental concerns, but the property is valued, each and every year and in fact each and every day, by thousands of residents of this area, who have seen green space seeming to diminish in the last decade. Landuth doesn’t dismiss their concerns, but says RDU has to look at possible needs for a hotel and office space, both of which would help to offset RDU operating costs.
Maybe so, but RDU seems to get plenty of revenue from parking, and the airport seems far from working on a thin margin, given that it will this year have 10 million customers, the highest number since the Great Recession put a dent in air travel. There are expenses to face in terms of maintenance, such as expanding or rebuilding runways, but the very fact that those steps have to be taken would seem to indicate the airport is booming in terms of business.
The authority should do more in terms of speaking to groups advocating caution on infringing on nature trails and woodlands. They should not be just dismissed as standing in the way of necessary progress. The rule of thumb on RDU land is the same as that on valued natural property everywhere: Once it’s developed, it is lost as a natural resource.