Roanoke County has now formally announced that it will accept Requests for Proposals through May 17, as it looks for some of the amenities identified by local residents in what they want to see at the 1100 acre Explore Park.
The former living history attraction is being leased by the county for 99 years; over the past few years the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department has crafted an “Adventure Plan” with the help of public input garnered at a series of community meetings.
Director Doug Blount said it’s all about “developing public-private partnerships … for the different type of recreational amenities that we have identified in the Adventure Plan.”
The Request For Proposals (RFPs) are for things like zipline rides, adventure courses, a variety of overnight accommodations and retail opportunities; also for special events that could be held at Explore Park. Those overnight RFPs run the gamut from cabins to tent camping sites and yurts – even treehouses. “Now we’re into the next phase of actually recruiting partners,” said Blount.
After the May 17 deadline the RFPs will be evaluated over the summer according to Blount, then any formal contracts would go to the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors for approval.
“Over the next 12 to 24 months we will see activity taking place with development at the park,” said Blount, “and I would hope that at the end of 24 months we would have some new recreational amenities opened – such as providing campgrounds, an aerial adventure course, additional retail space, [perhaps] the Brugh Tavern filled with some type of restaurant or food and beverage business.”
Blount said “it is exciting” that the adventure plan for Explore Park – ideally situated just off the Blue Ridge Parkway – is coming together. “This is been a project that has been in existence in our area for over 30 years. Roanoke County is very excited about the opportunity to be able to implement this Adventure Plan and bring in new partners. First and foremost [it’s] a great park for our residents. Secondly, this will be able to help us create a tourist destination – a mountain adventure – for the east coast, right here in our backyard.”
By Gene Marrano