A new oceanfront RV park adjacent to the Avon Pier is currently in the works, and is scheduled to open by Memorial Day, 2021. The “Avon by the Sea RV Park” will feature 26 full hook-up sites, an electronic gated entrance, an on-site bathhouse, and lush vegetation, and will be situated on the northern and ocean-facing side of the Avon property, per the site plans.
Though the site plan for the RV Park was officially approved by the Dare County Board of Commissioners at their Dec. 21 meeting, and was previously approved by the Dare County Planning Board in November, the project has been several years in the making, per property owner and project orchestrator, Joe Thompson.
“I’ve been thinking about it for about three years now, but every time I considered it, I would walk away from the concept,” said Thompson. “Originally, when we had done quite a bit of site engineering, we had planned on putting in a combination of condominiums and townhomes, and we had conversations with CAMA, the county, and the health department [about the project.] But every time we were at a point of moving forward, something would happen, like a hurricane or ocean overwash at [adjacent] Ocean View Drive, so we put on the brakes.”
Instead, the planned RV park has the potential to fill an accommodations gap in Avon. The village has both a motel and a soundside campground, (the Sands of Time Campground), which welcomes both short-term and long-term patrons. The Avon by the Sea RV park will concentrate on attracting short-term visitors only, (with no long-term leases planned), and will be the first and only oceanfront RV park in Avon village.
The RV park will operate within the guidelines of the recently revised rules for travel trailer parks in Dare County, which were adopted on October 19, 2020. Each of the 26 sites will have 15’ feet of separation, and while travel trailers will be technically allowed to remain on a year-round basis, they must be fully licensed and ready for highway use, and free of excessive additions such as decks or porches. The site of the RV park itself must also be at least two acres in size, per the new rules.
The Avon by the Sea RV Park will encompass at least two acres of the 4.85-acre property, and Thompson reports that they will be adding about two tractor-trailer loads of vegetation to provide a natural buffer between the individual sites, and between the park and the rest of the oceanfront area, which is also home to Pangea Tavern, the Koru Beach Klub, and the seasonal weekly farmer’s market.
“We are going to bring in a bunch of trees and bushes and other [vegetation] that doesn’t mind Hatteras Island weather,” he said. “When it’s all said and done, the Avon Pier property will be way greener than it was before.”
While the RV park will take up the northern side of the Avon Pier-adjacent property, and approximately two-thirds of the current parking spaces along the oceanfont, parking for regular Avon Pier visitors will not be significantly impacted.
“We’ll lose about half of the parking for the pier that is oceanfront parking, but we’ll still have parking for the pier along the oceanfront, and of course, we have a plethora of parking sites near Pangea and the Beach Klub,” said Thompson. “Unlike most of the piers on the Outer Banks, our property doesn’t lack in parking.”
Thompson says that the decision to move forward with the RV park was partially driven by the rise in RV travel that coincided with the Coronavirus pandemic, but it’s also a trend that he doesn’t expect to disappear anytime soon.
“I was talking with Dave Hallac, [Cape Hatteras National Seashore Superintendent], and he was telling me that 2020 reservations at their National Park campgrounds were up 175%,” he said. “…The [RV] market is gowning, and today, 38% of all RV sales are going to millennials.”
Thompson also sees an opportunity to increase business across the board for all of Hatteras Island through the establishment of the new RV park.
“RV travelers are a very different audience than people renting vacation homes for a week,” he said. “Folks that come in and stay in rental homes spend the vast majority of their vacationing budget on accommodations, travel to get here, and stocking the house up with groceries from Food Lion. From then on, their vacations [revolve around] what amenities are at the house – a game room, swimming pool, hot tub, walkway to the beach, etc. They might go out one night for dinner, or take a day trip to Ocracoke and have lunch, but they have already spent the vast majority of their vacation funds on accommodations and getting here.”
“RV-ing is different. They are not having all three meals at the RV – they are eating way more meals out. They are also getting out of the RV, as they are not going to stay there all day long. So instead, they’re going to go out and see things, and have experiences… RV-ers by design are more experienced-driven. They want to go out and experience this great country of ours.”
Thompson hopes to start accepting online reservations beginning in the spring, and to open the park to the public in the summer.
“We’ve already started demolition and rough grading, and we hope to have the survey work done in the next week or two, so our tentative grand opening date is Memorial Day Weekend.”
Thompson is equally hopeful that the park will attract new visitors in the COVID-19 era, but will also remain a popular accommodations option – and a driver of more business on Hatteras Island – in the years to come.
“Via a trickle-down effect, we feel like the RV audience is going to have a positive effect,” he said. “They’re going to go shopping, and get pizzas, and go to restaurants, and experience the rest of the island at a greater level. I feel like the RV audience itself is a positive thing for the island.”