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Another 64 acres to be donated to Mayo River State Park in Rockingham County

Fall Creek Falls in Mayo River State Park in Stoneville

The Piedmont Land Conservancy, with help from Duke Energy, recently obtained 64 acres along the Mayo River, including the area featuring Boiling Hole. The land will be added to the Mayo River State Park. 

MAYO BEACH — The Mayo River State Park keeps growing — 64 acres this time.

The Piedmont Land Conservancy announced Thursday that, with the help of money from Duke Energy, the new acreage had recently been acquired.

The property includes the famed “Mayo Beach” and the “Boiling Hole” on the river and will improve access to the Fall Creek waterfall, the land conservancy, or PLC, said in a news release. The future park land encompasses the forested area on both sides of the river.

Later this summer, the land is expected to be conveyed to the Mayo River State Park, where it will provide a northern access point to the river near the Anglin Mill Road bridge.

The Mayo River, one of the Dan River’s largest tributaries and part of its watershed. The Duke Energy support its part of its effort to address how the massive 2014 coal ash spill at one of its sites along the Dan near Eden affected recreation and the ecosystems.

The utility provided $363,000 to help PLC acquire the 64 acres.

Duke Energy officials said in the release that the company has now paid for more than 600 acres along the Mayo River for state parks in North Carolina and Virginia.

“Local officials expect the river to be a key economic driver for communities on both sides of the state line, so we’re proud to support this community growth and perpetual legacy,” Davis Montgomery, Duke Energy district manager for Rockingham County, said in the release.

Legislators authorized the Mayo River State Park in 2003, and over the years, more land along the river has been added to the park.

“Early on it was more of a dream than a park,” PLC Executive Director Kevin Redding said in the release. “With this acquisition, plus the 320-acre parcel PLC and Duke jointly completed in 2016, the dream of a regional recreational attraction has come to fruition.”

With the latest addition, the Mayo River State Park will soon total 2,500 acres, PLC said.

Virginia has begun assembling land to create its own Mayo River State Park. Duke Energy and PLC added a 213-acre parcel along the North Fork of the Mayo River to their holdings earlier this year, the land conservancy said.

At Charlotte and Raleigh airports, your face may soon become your passport

Facial recognition, a controversial technology that identifies people by using a camera to scan their faces, will likely be in place at the Charlotte and Raleigh airports sometime next year.

A federal customs official says that technology will help speed boarding and deter passport fraud on international flights in and out of North Carolina — just as it has in 17 other large airports across the nation.

“Our motivation is to make sure that bad people who do bad things don’t enter the country,” says Barry Chastain, the U.S. Custom and Border Protection official who oversees North Carolina.

But privacy advocates raise concerns that the technology could be misused.

“When you aggregate that data, it becomes a mass surveillance tracking device that could change the nature of society,” says Jay Stanley, a policy analyst with the ACLU who researches and writes about technology-related privacy issues.

Here’s how it would work:

At the gates for departing international flights — and at the airport customs stations for people arriving in the country — cameras would take photographs of travelers and download the images into a computer system. Then the images would be compared electronically to those already in a federal database — many of which are taken from passports. Within seconds, the system would allow officials to verify a traveler’s identity.

People who do not want to have their photos taken would have an opportunity to opt out. Those travelers would be vetted by the more traditional means now used at the airports.

Chastain said he would like to see the new system in place at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport in time for the Republican National Convention, which will take place in Charlotte starting on Aug. 24, 2020. Chastain said he also hopes the technology will be introduced to the Raleigh-Durham International Airport sometime next year, but he did not specify a date.

“That would be an attainable goal and would be a realistic goal,” Chastain said.

Privacy advocates have raised a host of concerns about the technology.

They point, among other things, to a 2017 report by Georgetown University Law School’s Center on Privacy and Technology, which raises questions about the accuracy of facial recognition technology and notes that Congress has never clearly authorized the collection of biometric information from America citizens at the border.

Stanley argues that the manual system that has been in place for years works well, and he questions why the government would welcome an invasive technology for “superficial reasons.”

“There’s a disproportion between the power and sweep of this technology, and the tiny conveniences and efficiencies that they can get from this,” he said.

Federal officials, however, say that the technology has accurately identified travelers in the overwhelming majority of cases so far. And they maintain that it will make travel more convenient and more secure.

Chastain notes that some impostors take legitimate passports belonging to others and superimpose their own photos to them. Facial recognition technology can detect that kind of fraud, he said.

“It’s going to tell me who you truly are,” he said.

To bring the changes to the Charlotte airport, Chastain said, federal officials will work primarily with airport officials, and with American Airlines and Lufthansa, which operate the vast majority of international flights out of Charlotte.

Last year, American Airlines began testing a facial recognition program for some international flights at Los Angeles International Airport. An airline spokesman said that American has not yet expanded the program beyond Los Angeles.