Explore Park, an 1,100-acre site located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Roanoke, Va., will soon be known as Blue Ridge America. According to a story in the Roanoke Times, Florida developer Larry Vander Maten plans to makeover the park with hotels, live theater, restaurants, treehouse cabins, and a golf course. Vander Maten said that he intends to preserve much of the park’s natural character, calling this new project a “national park on steroids.”
For 13 years, Explore Park was a quiet retreat for Roanoke residents with a popular trail network for mountain bikers and hikers, as well as living history and interpretative nature activities for kids. In the fall of 2007 the Virginia Recreational Facilities Authority board closed day-to-day operations at the park after financial woes. The trails have since remained open. Expectedly, reaction to the new plan has been mixed.