FAIRLAWN — Prime real estate in Pulaski County will now become public recreation space thanks to the generosity of the late Margaret Virginia Smith.
The Virginia Outdoors Foundation, which had been entrusted as the property’s executor, signed over the deed to the county during a ceremony Wednesday afternoon at the farm.
Smith was the last heir of the farmland before her death in 2016 at the age of 90, but she wasn’t the first in her family to have an altruistic sense of giving to her community.
Her father, J. Logan Smith, sold a portion of the once 200-acre property to house Radford Army Ammunition Plant workers after it was built in the early 1940s, according to Cloyd District Supervisor Joe Guthrie. He told attendees during Wednesday’s deed transfer that selling the 109 acres to Fairview Realty Company — that eventually became known as the community of Fairlawn —was Smith’s way of supporting the World War II effort.
Margaret later sold additional land for the construction of the old Riverlawn Elementary School, now the Pulaski County Community Center. One of the few decided plans for the park is a trail that will connect the farm to the center. It will be known as the Smith Farm Trail.
In 2012, Smith informed the VOF that after her death she would be donating the remainder of her land to ensure that it would be used as a public space.
Nearly all of the approximately 98-acre property and the community center are protected by a conservation easement, which prevents the land from ever being used for commercial or industrial use. The roughly 9 remaining acres not protected can be sold for those purposes, but any revenue generated from the sale of that land would go toward development and preservation of the public space.
Ruth Babylon, who works in the VOF Blacksburg office, was instrumental in handling the estate and making sure that Smith’s vision for the property was realized. Babylon was a neighbor of Smith’s for nearly a decade, although she had never met Smith until she started looking into donating and preserving the farm.
“I know Margaret wanted to preserve the land because she wanted to it to stay the way she remembered it growing up,” she said. “She loved the property, and having the space enjoyed by the public was very important to her.”
Babylon said that working with the county on this project has been a joy, and it shared Smith’s vision throughout the process.
“When the county told her about the plans to have a trail from the old school all the way to the river, she knew they were on the same page and that put her mind at ease,” she said.
Babylon said she couldn’t speak to how rare a donation of this size is across the state, but she said it was larger than most she had personally dealt with in her time with the state agency.
Pulaski County Administrator Jonathan Sweet said that besides the trail, there are no concrete plans on what the finished product will look like. The idea of ball fields has been floated around and something Smith, a diehard Radford High School and Virginia Tech Football fan, wanted to see developed on the property.
“There is a lot of planning still left to do and we want to hold community meetings to gauge citizen input. Complimenting the existing amenities from Radford’s park and maximizing the riverfront space is all part of the process,” he said.
Sweet said that the parcel has an estimated value of approximately $320,000, so it is quite the gift for the county to receive.
“The possibilities are endless on what we can do with this space. It is a generous gift that citizens will enjoy and we hope to honor Smith’s legacy in the process,” he said. The county is excited to begin the development process.”