Two weeks ago for print, Lena Geller wrote about the poor conditions of homes located on Durham’s Open Air Camp Road leased to tenants by the nonprofit Eno River Association, which now has plans to sell the properties to the state. Readers had thoughts.

From reader Steph Perry, a former tenant of the same cabin that’s now home to current tenant Jerry Ellis, who Geller interviewed:

I lived in the Open Air House before Brenda and Jerry and dealt with VS Rich. They are LYING. I spent all of my own money and countless man hours fixing that house. I have roommates who can testify to that as they did as well. Vicky absolutely NEVER helped us and straight told us she would kick us out if we caused more trouble. I lived in the front room which had no out wall. Power was $500 a month due to lack of insulation, and we lived without any heat except for a cracked little Woodstove.  The lady who lived there before me was a professor and spent tens of thousands of dollars keeping it up and I wasn’t able to. I gave up and moved out. I have story after story of the horrors of that house, though it’s not the Houses fault. The house is special and wonderful. Vicky Rich is a slumlord and ERA knows it bc I went to them several times. Thanks for finally bringing this to light.

From reader Rob Gelblum, via email:

Thx for it — informative, along with the rest of this issue’s content. But can’t help wanting to note this: At the risk of stating the obvious (at least to progressives), the folks living in these homes — along with all other humans — deserve housing, but there’s much to be said for ERA’s plan to put the land in the State Parks’ hands, with the housing provided to park rangers. As a retired state employee, I can vouch for the fact that said employees are not the most highly compensated folks in the land. The challenges facing the to-be-dislocated current residents should be swiftly dealt with. They, and EVERY OTHER HUMAN, should be provided not only housing, but food, health care, education and employment as human rights. That DOESN’T mean the great plan to house rangers in homes adjacent to the park they’ll be serving shouldn’t be implemented.

From reader Karen Kemp, a “longtime supporter of the Eno River Association:”

Your hit job on the Eno River Association was underserved, as well as poor reporting. I attended the meeting where the tenants presented their stories and experiences in detail. ERA board members listened with respect. They responded with compassion, recognition of having fallen short, and a plan of action.

Writer Lena Geller’s polemic goes most off course with the section of editorializing and snarky rhetorical questions that begins, “By and large, though, the looming displacement—and the years of property negligence—call the ERA’s mission into question. If the ERA is dedicated to ‘protecting water quality,’ why is it lording over tenants ….” etc., etc “ (BTW, if Indyweek is going to level charges of lead-contaminated water, I hope you have the independent lab test results to show it.)

I would not want to live in the city Durham would have become if not for the ERA’s decades of advocacy and action for land, water, and natural places and that history of service matters.

This situation is very difficult for all concerned. Indyweek, a for-profit company, chose to make it harder. You chose the low road with this mean-spirited attack on a valued Durham nonprofit.


Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle. 

Send comments to backtalk@indyweek.com.