Build It . . . They Will Come!

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Vandemere Waterfront Park has been discovered! Boat traffic set a record last Saturday. Here, an avid boater ‘puts in’ on a chilly Wednesday morning.

VANDEMERE – Open since August 2016, Vandemere Waterfront Park experienced its busiest day ever on the Saturday after Thanksgiving! According to town manager Tom Woodruff, the park can accommodate 35 boat trailer parking spaces. Almost every weekend since April, the popular ramp leading to Bay River has consistently approached, or exceeded, its limit!

“Each year we have noticed an increase in traffic from the prior year,” explained Woodruff, during a brief interview. “This past Saturday, at 9am, we had 39 trailers over our capacity! The weather wasn’t as nice on Sunday, but we were still over our maximum by 20 early that morning.”

Woodruff sees this growing interest not as a good problem for the town, but rather just “all good!”

“We felt as people learned about Vandemere Creek, the Bay River, and all of its creeks and tributaries, they would want to come and enjoy it as much as our residents do! We knew we would need to enlarge our parking lot at some time in the future – just not this quickly!”

Woodruff explained town officials are working with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission – which oversees boat ramps throughout the state – on ways to expand. He added that very few grants are available so a temporary solution is likely until permanent funding can be secured.

The park has also had economic benefits. Mayor Judy Thaanum reports 20 existing homes have been purchased since the park’s inception. Even the former town library – at one time scheduled for demolition – was purchased for recent renovation into a four-bedroom home.

The list goes on. Five new houses complete. Three more under construction. An additional two set to begin.

“These numbers may seem small to some,” said Woodruff, “but for a town of 250 people, we haven’t seen this type of activity since prior to the recession of 2008.”

Woodruff is just warming up. The active senior apparently doubles as Vandemere’s one-man public relations firm!

“Our park visitors are not just from eastern North Carolina, but from all over. We have had boaters from as far away as Alaska, and even some from overseas. Some of our residents enjoy cruising the park in their golf carts to see different license tags and where visitors are from!”

Woodruff definitely expects these trends to continue.

“As more and more folks learn of our hidden gem, they want to be a part of it. We have as nice a park and boating access area as any in the state. Our waters are some of the best for fishing, hunting, and boating. The people of Vandemere are super friendly and our laid-back lifestyle is nothing short of contagious!”

Needless to say, the park has evolved into Vandemere’s Number One marketing tool. From Bayboro in Pamlico County, take a short trip north along Highway 304. Keep your eyes peeled for a right onto the state’s shortest secondary road – Hwy. 307 (officially known in Vandemere as ‘Pennsylvania Avenue.’) In about a mile, you’ll see one of the state’s familiar brown signs denoting a nearby boat ramp.

“We’re really looking forward to where the next five years takes us,” chuckled Woodruff.

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