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About PRO


    Preserve Rural Orange is a nonprofit 501(c)3 citizen organization, established in 2009 to protect watershed land and farms in Orange County, North Carolina.  Providing timely public education on potential impacts of development, PRO has been influential in promoting constructive community dialogue on issues affecting rural residents, farmers, the environment and public health.

Through grassroots organizing, PRO has led a series of successful public campaigns to stop detrimental development of rural land: a UNC airport, county waste transfer station, expanded UNC animal research campus, and commercial event centers.  PRO has been effective at questioning the location of projects with potential impacts on the watershed and surrounding communities, and at increasing accountability and transparency, by identifying pertinent information about the planning process, economics and likely impacts of developing land in the rural county. With compelling evidence of economic and environmental impacts of developing in areas without municipal services, PRO makes a strong case for finding alternatives to projects that would affect taxpayers, rural land and farms.

   Preserve Rural Orange has rapidly become a valued resource for citizens, businesses, nonprofits and government leaders, providing well-researched information on projects affecting rural property, timely news updates, and consultation to community activists seeking organizing strategies.

    The organization is committed to facilitating informed, proactive citizen involvement in issues affecting rural land.  In public meetings with high turnout, and in ongoing communications with local residents, media, government and university officals, and local and regional organizations, PRO has become a vital presence in Orange County. Through timely news reports, online postings and accessible public records, PRO reaches thousands of community members.


In August 2008 residents of southwest Orange County learned of NC Senate Bill 1925, which established an Airport Authority for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to relocate its Horace Williams Airport operations. The new authority would be composed of fifteen members, with eight appointed by UNC, two by the state, two by the municipalities and three by the county.  The authority would have the power to take land by eminent domain, and was limited in its site selection to Orange County.  According to a comprehensive $200,000 Talbert & Bright study commissioned by UNC in 2005, the number one location for a new airport which met the most criteria was Raleigh-Durham Airport, but the first location in Orange County would be in southwest Orange at Site H.

Neighbors circulated a petition opposing UNC’s airport plans and collected over 1800 signatures in a matter of weeks.  At the first Preserve Rural Orange community meeting in September 2008, close to 300 people turned out to share concerns and information about the proposed airport. Signed petitions were presented to the Orange County Commissioners in October 2008.  In January 2009 when UNC-CH Chancellor Holden Thorp announced that university flight operations would relocate to RDU, volunteers had collected over two thousand petition signatures. Local residents founded Preserve Rural Orange to address current and future development plans that would adversely affect the rural, historically agricultural community in Orange County.

 residents of Orange County have come together over concerns that would have impacted the environmental integrity of watershed land, farms and homes. In the recent past, community members have been instrumental in stopping a landfill and a previous airport proposal. For a decade, neighbors worked on the campaign to Save Cane Creek. Some of the same families who lost significant farmland by eminent domain to Cane Creek Reservoir in the 1980's would have lost much of their remaining land if an airport were built on Site H.


To preserve, strengthen and defend the viability of the rural community of watershed land, farms and woodlands in Orange County, North Carolina.


Laura Streitfeld, Executive Director

Laura Streitfeld is a nonprofit leader with broad experience developing innovative communications and events to engage and empower communities. Her thorough research and writing have resulted in successful campaigns with positive outcomes for environmental, educational and arts organizations in North Carolina and New England.

Robin Gallagher, Chair
Sandra Beeman, Treasurer
Patricia Fullagar, Secretary
Laura Streitfeld (non-voting)

Contact PRO's Board of Directors:

Nancy Holt, Retired Health Advocate

David Marion, Aircraft Manufacturing Manager

Suzanne Nelson, Organic Farmer
Mitch Renkow, Economist
Mike Teer, Heritage Dairy Farmer

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