By Michelle Wagner | Outer Banks Voice on May 4, 2021
Plans for a boardwalk at the Soundside Event Site in Nags Head took a step forward on May 3 when the Dare County Commissioners unanimously agreed to award a $90,000 contract to Albemarle & Associates for engineering and design services for the project.
Outer Banks Visitors Bureau Executive Director Lee Nettles told the Voice that the boardwalk has been identified as a top priority of local tourism officials. Construction of the project, he noted, could begin as early as next spring and possibly be completed by the 2022 summer season.
“The [Dare County Tourism] Board felt strongly about moving the boardwalk up in that process and trying to tackle it upfront,” said Nettles, adding that with popular boardwalks in Duck and on Hatteras Island, the bureau has some nice examples as reference points. “I believe – and I think that the Tourism Board recognizes – that this is a real opportunity. And if we do it right, I think it could be a signature attraction for the Outer Banks.”
After gathering input from the public as well as the Dare County Tourism Board, Albemarle & Associates will be charged with creating conceptual drawings and mapping out exactly where the boardwalk will be constructed. Nettles noted that part of the planning would be the continued support of a variety of uses at the site, including the launching of kiteboards into Roanoke Sound.
Because the site is in an environmentally-sensitive area, the engineering firm will also secure the appropriate permits before putting together a bid package for potential construction firms. Nettles said that bids for construction should go out soon after the end of the year.
Part of the planning will include tying into an existing boardwalk behind the OBX Adventure Park and the former Pamlico Jack’s Restaurant, Nettles said. In the past, Nags Head officials have discussed a town boardwalk along the Roanoke Sound and Nettles said the Event Site’s boardwalk could potentially connect to a town boardwalk if it comes to fruition.
“We’re trying to work with the town and if it happens to align that they want to move forward with it, then that’s great, we’d welcome that…and hopefully have a longer boardwalk,” Nettles said, adding that at the very least, the plans would incorporate tying into the nearby Harvey Sound Access.
The length of the boardwalk hasn’t been determined, but it could include piers and offshoots as well as interpretive stations so visitors could learn more about the wetlands.
Meanwhile, the Dare County Tourism Board’s Events Site Advisory Group, which first met in December 2019, is tasked with considering development options for what it widely seen as an underutilized site — with discussions including facilities like a hotel and an events center.
“I can say that we’re looking at a highly flexible event center that leverages the event lawn and …at least at this point does not include a hotel,” Nettles said. He added that such a center would be intended to host sports events, concerts, banquets as well as meetings. Nettles said such a center would likely be about 35,000 to 40,000 square feet and would require approval by the town of Nags Head.
The boardwalk, however, is a separate project and is viewed as a higher priority than the events center, noted Nettles. “We’re going to get to that first,” he said. “And plus, everything costs money, so we had to have a plan for being able to sort of spread these expenses out over years.”