Cabins, yurt rentals expected to give boost to Roanoke County tourism

Leaders tout features as next step in improvements to Explore Park

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – You can now rent a cabin or yurt in Roanoke County’s Explore Park for a stay beginning as early as next week.

County leaders are touting the additions as a way to boost tourism, an example of a beneficial public-private partnership and the latest in a string of improvements to the park that people in the Roanoke Valley will enjoy.

A ribbon cutting Friday afternoon marked the announcement.

New camping options
Four cabins and four yurts are now available for rent and, in the next year, there will be 18 structures in total.

It’s a project that the Roanoke County Parks, Recreation and Tourism department staff members have worked on for more than two years.

“It's creating the park and turning it into a destination and that was our vision from the very beginning,” director Doug Blount said.

The idea is that a whole family can stay in them. They have multiple beds, a small refrigerator and a microwave. They both have A/C units and the cabins have heat, but the yurts do not.

The yurts have bathrooms and people staying in cabins will have access to individual bathhouses in a nearby building.

Park improvements
The features are the latest in a series of improvements. The park has 14 miles of trails (and has become a major mountain biking destination in the area), a disc golf course, horseback riding and has most recently added camping sites with a more primitive style, like teepee tents and larger canvas tents.

Leaders are adding other events, like a holiday event starting in about two weeks, with a focus on non-peak times of the year.

And more features are on the way, including an aerial adventure course which will have a treetop rope and zipline.

More people have been visiting the park. There has been a 20 to 30 percent increase in visitors each of the last few years. It now gets around 100,000 people a year.

“We've been just thrilled with how well-received all the new recreational facilities here at Explore Park have been received by the public,” Blount said.

County leaders said they plan on continuing to add features to the park for the next 10 years.

Explore Park has long suffered from plans that haven’t turned into reality but it’s been thought of as a huge opportunity for the county.

Built locally
Don and Melody Harrison built the new cabins by hand and set up the yurts. 

“It's exciting. After all the long, hard work it's nice to see that it's being recognized and that everyone seems to really enjoy it,” Don Harrison said.

He and his wife built one and then approached the parks department when they heard about the plans for Explore Park. Now their hobby has become a business, Don’s Cab-Inns, which is based in Vinton.

“It's kind of a dream come true,” he said. “It couldn't have worked out any better.”

People are already asking if they can buy one from him.

More camping details
When they walk in a cabin, people will smell the pine, which is local. They’re called Pod Cabins and have arched roofs.

Harrison and Roanoke County leaders want to attract people who want to camp -- just not in a tent.

The options can be rented on the county's website. The cabins cost $50 a night and $75 in-season. They are 120 square feet.

The yurts are 200 square feet and are $75 a night and $100 in-season.

Visitors will sign a lease with the county, which will get 10 percent of the profits. The county built the bathhouses, which are adjacent to the cabins.

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