Last week Picturing the Past shared the story of
the Summit Camps airstrip, this week continues the airstrip’s story after the
camps closed.  A special thank you to
Kent Wilcox and the Friends of DuPont Forest ( who allowed us to reprint these articles.  Wilcox interviewed Ben Cart Sr., Ron Hubbard,
Kit Garren, and Chet Meinzer for memories of the Summit Airstrip. Bruce
MacDonald also supplied information.

In the mid
1980’s, Mr. Cart decided to close the Summit Camps and sell his properties. At
that time the DuPont Corporation, located immediately west of Summit Camps, was
using the Little River to supply water for its employees and for the production
of X-ray film. One consequence of amendments to the Clean Water Act in 1987 was
that the Little River could not be used for drinking water when local rains
increased the turbidity above permissible levels. In addition, increased
nitrate levels in the Little River from fertilizers used by farms, homes, and a
golf course upstream of the DuPont plant were causing blemishes in the X-ray
film. The plant manager decided that the solution to these problems was to
purchase the portion of Summit Camps that included Lake Julia and use the lake
water for drinking and film production. In 1990, DuPont hired Kit Garren to
drive a film crew around Mr. Cart’s property as they documented the importance
of Lake Julia and the surrounding watershed. The resulting video must have been
effective, because in 1991 the DuPont Corporation purchased all of the 1,400
acres that Mr. Cart had purchased in 1967, including Lake Julia, the facilities
of the Summit Camps, and the Summit Airstrip.

Aerial view of the airstrip with the three

large Xs marking it as closed.

Photo by Dallam Oliver-Lee posted on

The DuPont
Corporation owned the airstrip from 1991 to 1996. During this period, the
airstrip was used by DuPont executives who flew in from Wilmington, Delaware
for meetings and recreation (trout fishing in well-stocked Lake Imaging was
popular).  The airstrip was also used by
the DuPont Employees Recreation Association (DERA) for picnics and parties.

In 1996, the
DuPont Corporation transferred ownership of 2,472 acres (including the Summit
Airstrip) and the manufacturing plant in Cedar Mountain to Sterling Diagnostic
Imaging. The President of Sterling flew his plane from Houston, Texas to the
airstrip several times in 1996. Unfortunately, in that same year, an inebriated
driver raced a car down the runway and plunged off the end. He survived the
crash, but the presence of illegal drugs in the car raised suspicions by the
local sheriff that the airstrip was being used by drug traffickers. In
addition, officials at Sterling were concerned because its manufacturing
facility was located approximately 40 seconds flying time from the north end of
the airstrip. Consequently, in 1997 Sterling requested that the FAA remove the
airstrip from its approved list. Chet Meinzer, property manager for Sterling
Diagnostic Imaging, painted large white Xs at each end and near the middle of
the airstrip. He also dumped piles of soil on the asphalt to discourage use.
The soil was removed a year later, but the Xs remain.

Sterling Diagnostic Imaging (SDI) merged with the Agfa Corporation in 1999,
approximately 440 acres including the manufacturing facility were retained by
Agfa while SDI sold 2,223 acres, including the land around Lake Julia and the
airstrip, to a real estate development company called Waterfall Investment
Group LLC. The developer immediately began construction of roads for a gated
residential community to be called The Cliffs at Brevard. It is conceivable
that the developer intended to reactivate the airstrip for use by members of
the community, but all development came to a halt in 2000 when the property was
acquired by the State of North Carolina. The acquisition, which includes High
Falls and Triple Falls, is now the most highly visited portion of DuPont State
Recreational Forest. 

NC Forest Service firefighting training at the old airstrip in DuPont State Forest.

Photo courtesy of Bruce MacDonald.

Although no
longer on FAA maps, the airstrip has been used since 2000 for numerous training
exercises, such as US Air Force pilots learning to fly Russian Mi-17
helicopters before delivery to the Afghan Air Force, pilots with the NC
Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team getting experience with Sikorsy UH-60
Blackhawk helicopters, and NC Forest Service pilots practicing their
firefighting skills. Hospitals in Spartanburg, Greenville, and Asheville use
the airstrip to transport patients by medevac helicopters. In the summer of
2011, the airstrip was used to film a segment for The Hunger Games in
which Katniss and Peeta are traveling by train from District 12 to the Capitol.
A low-flying helicopter with a wide-angle camera on one side was flown along
the airstrip while images of the forest on each side were captured. These
images were used to create the views from the windows of the train as it sped
through the forests of District 12.

Recently the
airstrip has also become an important component of the local ecology.  A corn field near the north end provides food
for deer, birds, squirrels, and other fauna. A Monarch Way Station that
provides nectar sources for migrating butterflies is at the south end of the
airstrip. And of course, the airstrip is a scenic portion of the one mile long
Airstrip Trail that is a favorite of mountain bikers and hikers.

Visit the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn
more about our history and see additional photographs.  For more information, comments or suggestions
contact Marcy at
[email protected] or
828-884-3151 X242.

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(828) 884-3151

212 S Gaston St, Brevard, NC 28712