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Read Mountain Preserve to expand, add hiking trails

Read Mountain Preserve to expand, add hiking trails

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Read Mountain Preserve will more than double in size when a deed for 304 acres is handed over to Roanoke County in the coming weeks.

The Roanoke County Board of Supervisors recently approved a $554,470 purchase to acquire additional property on the northwest side of the 2,353-foot Read Mountain, bringing the preserve’s total size to 547 acres.

The forested mountain preserve, located near Bonsack off U.S. 460, already has five miles of hiking trails. Moving forward, there are plans to expand walkability along Read Mountain with the added acreage, said Roanoke Valley Greenways Coordinator Liz Belcher, who was involved in facilitating the acquisition and will assist with a master plan for the park.

“We would like to have more opportunities for hiking up there, and at least one more trailhead so that people can get in there,” Belcher said. “The trailhead that we have now from Crumpacker Drive, during the early stages of COVID it was packed. We know that there’s demand enough for another trailhead.”

Beyond deciding where to place extra hiking trails and an added trailhead on another side of the mountain, a Read Mountain master plan will address how the forest will be managed and consider potential challenges ahead of time, Belcher said.

“What do we have?” Belcher said. “How can we preserve it and take care of it?”

Once the deed transfer is finalized, Belcher’s hope is to start with master planning in January, which is an ideal time to be in the woods and walking along ridgelines looking for trail opportunities without leaves obstructing the view. Connecting the park to existing greenways will also be considered during the planning process.

Funding for the Read Mountain Preserve expansion comes from a $620,054 state grant provided by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation’s Forest CORE Fund, with an additional $30,000 from the Read Mountain Alliance, covering all stages of the purchase.

Read Mountain Alliance Founder Ron Crawford said the newly acquired acreage rounds out the alliance’s goal of preserving almost the whole mountaintop, thanks to efforts of thousands of Roanoke Valley residents.

“The idea of preserving Read Mountain started about 25 years ago, and 20 years ago we formed the Read Mountain Alliance,” Crawford said to the board of supervisors. “Thousands and thousands of volunteer hours went into the whole process, and over 10 years we finally created the park.”

The expansion land has been in the Andrews, Bradshaw and Holland families for generations, county documents noted. Some trails are already on the newly acquired property, including the popular Buzzard Rock overlook at 2,180 feet in elevation.

“We were born and raised on this property, and we’re so proud that we have taken loving good care of it,” said land trustee Matilda Holland Bradshaw. “We haven’t allowed cellphone towers to be a pincushion across the ridgeline.”

Bradshaw said her family was asked for rights to hunt and to build cellphone towers on their portion of Read Mountain, but those proposals were rejected in the name of conservation.

“We’re just so proud that we have this property to offer that it can be enjoyed by the community at large,” Bradshaw said.

Belcher said Read Mountain is an example of the decades of progress and many partners required to make land conservation a reality, from private citizens to nonprofit organizations, land trusts, county, state and federal entities.

“Protection of the scenic ridgelines around the valley is not a given,” Belcher said. “It’s kind of cool to be down in the Roanoke Valley and see all these mountains. It would be less cool if they all had a hotel on top of them.”

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