The Umstead Coalition is stepping up its opposition to a plan that could convert unused lands near Raleigh-Durham International Airport into a rock quarry. The group says the property is better used and wants to get the message across.

Around the area in question, protest signs against the plan appear as a picking of winter mushrooms.

"When people discover that our public lands can be divested to a private company to create a quarry, which is essentially a very big hole in the ground, they get angry," said Nancy Pekarek, a member of the Umstead Coalition.

The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority owns the land between Interstate 40 and Umstead Park. It was bought years ago for a track project that was never built. The airport would like to turn the property into income.

Pekarek and the Umstead Coalition believe that the land would be the ideal place for a park.

"Think of the value of Central Park in New York, it's the value we have here," she said.

But this is not the only suggestion for the earth. Last November, Wake Stone Corporation introduced a soil exploration plan in search of the rock, creating a quarry operation that goes hand-in-hand with its existing operation nearby.

Thomas Oxholm, vice president of Wake Stone, said the company is waiting for RDU to make decisions and that no action on the plan is imminent.

Pekarek also stated that he was not informed of the timetable.

On Friday, the airport authorities acknowledged the conflict by publishing this statement:

We understand that the airport assets not currently in use continue to be a topic of conversation. Once an official proposal is presented again to the board, we are confident that our directors will listen and consider all options in a thoughtful manner.

Pekarek and the Umstead Coalition do not want to wait. They want to eliminate what they call a bad idea and plant their own plan instead.

The airport authority said it hoped the groups could work together to find the best result. The council launched an official discussion about the country last year.

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