The state has worked out a land swap with the company that owns Fred Anderson Toyota that would create a new entrance to Umstead State Park off Glenwood Avenue and provide $2 million to acquire more land for the park elsewhere.
Anderson would receive 23.09 acres of state land on the north side of Glenwood Avenue that has been severed from the park for decades and was officially removed from the park system in 1985.
In exchange, Anderson would give 13.14 acres on the south side of Glenwood to Umstead that would allow the park to reconfigure its entrance from U.S. 70. The new entrance would stem from Triangle Drive, which has a traffic light at U.S. 70 that would make it safer to get in and out of the park.
The state says that last year more than 825,000 Umstead visitors used the Glenwood Avenue entrance, which has no traffic signal.
“We look forward to the safety and convenience this new property will allow us to provide for visitors to one of our most popular parks,” Susi H. Hamilton, secretary of the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, said in a statement Tuesday.
In addition to the $2 million for park expansion, Anderson would pay to extend Triangle Drive as part of a new loop road that would border the park and reach the Fred Anderson Toyota dealership. The company would also pay to demolish the former Mattress Factory building on the property it would give to the state.
The deal must be approved by the Council of State — the 10 top statewide-elected officials led by the governor — which will consider it Tuesday. It's also contingent on the city of Raleigh approving Anderson's request to have the 23 acres rezoned for "industrial mixed use" that would allow the company to develop the property.
It's not clear what property the state would buy for Umstead with the $2 million. In announcing the deal Tuesday, the state parks division said only that it would be available to "acquire lands contiguous to the park as opportunities become available."
Jean Spooner, chairwoman of the Umstead Coalition, a group of park supporters, says the best opportunity to add to Umstead is to buy or lease adjacent land owned by Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Last summer, The Conservation Fund, a national environmental organization, offered to buy 105 acres from RDU for $6.46 million and give it to Umstead. The RDU Airport Authority turned down The Conservation Fund’s offer, and later tabled another offer to lease the land for a quarry.
“This will be a great opportunity to reopen that discussion," Spooner said.
The 23 acres that Anderson would acquire was part of the property the federal government turned over to the state for a new park in 1943. The federal government will need to sign off on the swap as well, said Katie Hall, spokeswoman for the parks division.
The land was separated from the rest of Umstead when U.S. 70 was built. When the General Assembly removed the property from the park system in 1985, it stipulated that the only use of the property be a sale or exchange that would allow for the expansion of Umstead, which now covers more than 5,500 acres in the heart of the Triangle.
Spooner said the Umstead Coalition supports the proposed land swap. Not only will the entrance be safer, she said, but the deal would add land to Umstead on the same side of Glenwood Avenue where it has value to the park.
"We feel that it’s a great opportunity for Umstead State Park," she said.