Pulaski County easement will provide key linkages in New River Valley greenway

Hazel Hollow in Pulaski County is an 11-acre strip of green space that hugs the northern bank of the New River just across from the City of Radford. Its potential for development as residential riverfront property is obvious and might have been inevitable. Instead, thanks to the wishes of a VOF easement donor, the vision of county planners and administrators, and funding from both the Virginia Land Conservation Fund and the VOF-administered Preservation Trust Fund (PTF), the property will soon become a part of a greenway that provides breathing space to a rapidly developing area, connecting it to the fishing, boating and wildlife viewing possibilities on the banks of the river, and linking a series of existing trails across the region.

A key component of the project, located just down river from Hazel Hollow, is the 100-acre Smith Farm, gifted to VOF in 2012. Margaret Smith’s dream was to preserve the farm as open space for a public park. “Her donation sparked the project, really,” says Jared Linkous, county engineer. “Thanks to her, we have the beginning of a county park presence.” Trails on Smith Farm are slated for a fall 2017 ground-breaking and will extend to Hazel Hollow through the county’s acquisition of a small parcel between the two properties. An old elementary school site to the north will provide trailhead parking and playing fields for outdoor sports.

The greenway features a rich mix of recreational, historic and natural resources. Eagle and waterfowl habitat along the river contributes to the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail. The Bike 76 Trail meets up with Hazel Hollow on the greenway’s northern edge. This bike route is included in the master plan for the Beaches to Bluegrass Trail, a statewide multi-use route that aims to link existing routes across communities from the Virginia Beach oceanfront to Cumberland Gap on the border with Tennessee. To the west is a railroad bridge included on Virginia’s Civil War Trail. Damage from cannons fired by Union troops is still visible on the piers that support it. Next to it, a proposed pedestrian bridge would span the river, linking to the Bisset Park trail and the Riverway Greenway in the City of Radford and potentially extending the Beaches to Bluegrass Trail along one of its proposed routes. Bisset Park further links to Wildwood Park, another VOF easement in the city.

Despite its small size, the Hazel Hollow parcel will play an outsized role in implementing the greenway and increasing outdoor opportunities for people in the New River Valley. Playing fields? Check. Hiking and biking trails? Check. Places to launch a kayak, canoe or tube? Check. Chances to view wildlife or experience historic sites? Check. And it is all part of a larger network of regional trails that could eventually span the state from east to west. Hazel Hollow may be just 11 acres, but for this section of the New River it makes all the difference.

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