Op-Ed

RDU Forest holds value for many

Push for more trails on RDU land

Outdoor enthusiasts are pushing for a system of more than 50 miles of trails and related businesses between Lake Crabtree County Park and William B. Instead State Park. The land is owned by Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Here Dave Anderson
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Outdoor enthusiasts are pushing for a system of more than 50 miles of trails and related businesses between Lake Crabtree County Park and William B. Instead State Park. The land is owned by Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Here Dave Anderson

At the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority (RDUAA) board meeting on Dec. 21, Michael Landguth, president and CEO of the RDUAA, became emotional, even crying and choking on his words, when recounting an incident in which RDU employees, police and EMS saved the life of a passenger who suffered cardiac arrest after boarding a plane.

Reportedly, qualified first aid responders did CPR on the victim, maintaining the heartbeat, until EMS arrived. This life was saved because of the availability of trained first aid responders at RDU and because of the quality processes established by airport management.

My wish is that Mr. Landguth, all members of the RDUAA, the FAA and local governments realize that RDU Forest is to many in this community the first aid and EMS that restarts our heart and souls many times every week. The proximity of RDU Forest to this metropolitan area is like having EMS just seconds away instead of minutes or hours away. Destroying RDU Forest for unnecessary development (i.e. a rock quarry, parking lots, etc.) for the sole purpose of making money is like taking away qualified first aid responders, emergency medical services and access to health care.

I am sure some will question this comparison. But personally, RDU Forest saved me. Many years ago, I was in an abusive relationship. I felt like I died. I felt as if my heart had stopped and my soul had died. Fortunately, I made it out. But what to do next? Should I restart myself? Could I restart myself? How do I restart myself? Running and hiking were not options for me given the severe knee injuries that I have experienced. So I went on a bike ride. First it was a road bike, then it was a mountain bike ride. Although riding on the roads was a big boost to my survival, going into the woods and experiencing the forest is what brought me back to life. RDU Forest restarted my heart and my soul. I was able to do this only because we have, with RDU Forest, a life-giving recreational gem in the midst of our urban setting. If this healing forest was further away, my recovery would have been significantly hindered.

Not only can I speak to how RDU Forest saved and rejuvenated me, but in coaching a kids’ mountain bike team and teaching mountain bike clinics for women in the Triangle area, I have personally seen how RDU Forest has had positive impacts on many others.

Yes, we have many nice parks in our area. But a forested experience is very different from the city or town park experience. With the park environment, you are still in the urban environment. With the forested environment, you can escape the confines of the urban environment. This escape elevates and promotes healing and personal growth. In this world of constant urban stimulation, bullies of all ages and the like, we desperately need access to this healing forest.

RDU is not a private entity; it is a public entity. The citizens of Wake County, Durham County, Raleigh and Durham own the airport. RDUAA officials represent the citizens of these areas. I commend the RDUAA for enabling quality medical responses at the airport. I ask them now to enable the same within the growing local community that they serve and to save RDU Forest from unnecessary development. Per the Master Plan, these lands are not needed for direct aeronautical use. These irreplaceable, centrally located forested lands are needed for the health and well-being of this fast-growing community and its visitors. There is no other place like this.

Please do not put a rock quarry on the Odd Fellows tract. Please open the Odd Fellows tract to hiking and biking. Please open the entire east section of 286 along Old Reedy Creek Road to hiking and biking. Please keep Lake Crabtree County Park as is. Please do not take away these lands that have and will continue to rejuvenate and restart many lives.

Natalie Lew, MA, is a contract clinical research associate with Weltan Clinical Research Consulting and the head coach and team director of the Southern Wake Trail Hawks.

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