River Dunes, built on a land formerly known as Gum Thicket, is a place that prioritizes the relationship between people and nature. This community resides on the eastern edge of Pamlico County near the intersection of the Neuse River and the Pamlico Sound. River Dunes inhabits a 1400-acre peninsula that is riddled with estuarine creeks and acres of coastal marsh, a home to many species of birds, fish, and other coastal wildlife.
River Dunes has a rich history of coastal class with an authentic sense of community. Land conservation being at the forefront of the vision before building ever began, River Dunes complements the surrounding land and natural elements to truly coexist with nature.
The original team, consisting of builders, developers, architects, and experts, saw potential in this site. The goal was to create a community based on doing what was best rather than what was required, which inspired a new approach to coastal development. River Dunes has a foundation of respect for this piece of creation and desires to preserve it with all that is built.
It is also thought that Native Americans lived on the land now known as River Dunes as early as 8,000 B.C. in the Palmer Point area. The land looked quite different back then, possibly with drier land and lower sea levels as opposed to where they are today. Ceramic artifacts have been found all along the eastern and southeastern shore, making River Dunes a site with historical significance.
Natural Shorelines rich in history and diverse ecosystems merited a new model for waterfront living. Collaborations, research, partnership and conservation easements have all woven a strong foundation for sustainable growth and green building, including LEED certified professionals. River Dunes has recived state and national recognition for the community’s model of sustainable growth.
Division of Marine Fisheries
Shellfish Sanitation Section
Wildlife Resources Commission
Division of Coastal Management
Department of Environment & Natural Resources
In 1999, the developer held a meeting with regulators and the Coastal Federation to better understand the environmental concerns and common issues of the complex regulatory requirements that would affect their plans. He also went as far as bringing resource agencies into the planning process early to get their input and address their concerns before the development planning began. This approach prioritized maximum environmental protection rather than just meeting minimum requirements.
While working with all of the necessary stakeholders, the goals of building River Dunes placed an emphasis on conservation rather than compliance. Instead of reducing pollution impacts, the team aimed to eliminate them. Instead of stormwater draining into the sensitive estuarine creeks, this water would be treated through the natural flows of the wetlands throughout the land.
As a part of the environmental conservation approach, River Dunes’ team of developers and conservationists thought of a workaround to avoid the building of private docks at each residence so as not to disrupt the primary nursery areas of shell fishing. The solution? An inland Marina.
After all of the efforts mentioned, River Dunes has been described as a model residential community that represents a successful blending of natural resource conservation goals with positive economic development. “I’ve seen the market changing, people who love boating and come here to build their dream home don’t want to see the environment degraded,” said the developer and founder of River Dunes. “Protecting these waters protects their real estate investment too.”
River Dunes now has sites for over 600 homes and a beautiful inland marina in Grace Harbor, the heart of the property. Apart from the development efforts for the real estate here, we’ve also preserved designated areas for nature trails and have enhanced the wildlife habitats to add value for all of our visitors and residents to enjoy both the land and the water.
The rivers and the streams connected to the Neuse River Basin are home to shad, herring, striped bass and other fish that primarily live in the ocean but migrate upriver to spawn in the freshwater. Other species from mollusks and mussels to waterdogs and salamanders inhabit the Neuse River as well. Looking to the sky, you’ll see seagulls, pelicans, eagles, heron, egrets, and ibis. Deer roam the forested parts of River Dunes, often seen early in the mornings and late in the afternoons peering through the trees.
The land is lined with Loblolly and Longleaf Pines, one of the first species of pines trees native to the southeastern United States. Look around and you’ll find cedar, maple, oak and cypress trees thriving too. Wildflowers and grasslands are sprinkled throughout. Further from the water, you’ll find shrub thicket with a mixture of vines, shrubs, and small trees growing. Our maritime forest creates a prime habitat for plants, wildlife, and humans alike.