ELIZABETHTOWN — On dry days, drivers cruising down Hwy. 701 North from Elizabethtown to White Lake might see a cloud of dust hovering over the landscape just past the Cape Fear River. No heavy machinery is doing work, though — quite the opposite, in fact.
People are just having fun.
In 2000, Lynn Savage bought, with the intention of turning it into a housing development, 420 acres of property that he called “a bare piece of land” situated on the highway between Hog Slat and the river. For several years, he worked on roads for the development, and, as he did, he noticed a recurring sight.
“Every weekend, for a year, I just kept seeing four-wheeler after four-wheeler passing by,” he recounted. “One day, a group of guys pulled in and wanted to know if I would let them ride if they paid me.”
The idea piqued Savage’s interest, and he began researching parks that people with off-road equipment could utilize. While researching, he started envisioning an alternative use for his property, since it already had paths or roads on it. He developed the roads into paths more suitable for all-terrain vehicles, and, in 2009, Cape Fear ATV-MX Park was born.
Soon thereafter, however, Savage’s plans came to a screeching halt.
“I came down with colorectal cancer,” Savage said, “and it put me on the ground for about two years, so we’ve really only been (operational) for about four or five years.”
In those four or five years, though, the park has taken off.
“We’ve done (really) well to be in Bladen County,” said Savage.
Business has been so good, in fact, that additions are being made to the park. Currently, the park offers dry tent or RV campsites, but work has already begun on five or six rustic cabins which will sleep from two to eight people and be available for rent throughout the week. Savage said they are also in the process of getting water and sewer hookups in order to build a bathhouse.
In addition to camping, the site offers numerous ponds with docks for fishing. Savage said that he would like to get his own grilling station on site and would like to see a stage utilized for local concerts.
Most importantly, though, the park has trails — lots of trails. Savage said he did not know how many miles of trails were in the park, because “they’re so criss-crossed and tangled up.”
One of the biggest draws on the predominantly sand/clay mix trails is a sandy pond with about 4 feet of water, but visitors also gravitate to the portion of the park near the river, probably because of its muddy composition.
The park has brought with it a couple of surprises to Savage.
“When we first started, I was thinking small — maybe 30 or 40 people from Bladen County” he said. “We rarely get anybody from Bladen County, though. Most of the draw comes from Wilmington, Raleigh and military bases. We did this for kids in Bladen County — to give them something to do throughout the year.”
Maybe the biggest surprise, though, has been the aforementioned success of the endeavor.
“We don’t want to be as big-time as (another ATV park),” said Savage. “We just want to give families a chance to be out in the woods in a natural setting.”
He added about the success, “It has been a long time coming, though.”
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.