Located in scenic Madison County, the Smith Farm property is 86 acres of steeply sloping topography. The site includes most of Bailey Mountain’s eastern slope, thick forests, Banjo Branch, wetlands, three historic barns, and a farmhouse. The Town of Mars Hill acquired the property in 2019 with the help of funds from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF) and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). These funds required that the site be protected from development and remain open to the public for nature access, education, and passive recreation.
The town contracted with WithersRavenel to develop a master plan so the property could become Smith Farm Park under the framework of the funding guidelines. Incorporating the vision presented in previous planning documents, information gathered from walking the site, and the local wisdom of Town stakeholders, WithersRavenel created a plan for the future that was respectful of the property’s history.
The Master Plan recommends improvements to the property that encourage passive recreation, preservation, and opportunities for education. To suit the Town’s budget and schedule, the Master Plan suggests a phased implementation. The first phase, funded in part by a federal 2021 Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) grant, includes:
- Renovations and upgrades to existing barns
- Addition of new barns to create an historic barns complex
- Renovations to a new Discovery Center
- ADA-accessible sidewalk and trail connections
- Mown pathways
- Amphitheater stage with stone seating
- Picnic areas and seating
- Driveway and parking lot improvements
- Educational and wayfinding signage
Phase 2 improvements include enhancements to improve park access and the visitor experience. The plan notes that this phase will include:
- A playground
- Wood picnic pavilions with metal roofs
- Boardwalk stream crossings
- Bear-proof trash and recycling containers
The acquisition of, and improvements to, the Smith Farm property also point to a larger plan by the Town to expand the adjacent Bailey Mountain Park. Currently held by the Richard L. Hoffman Foundation, the 197-acre Bailey Mountain Park offers numerous hiking trails and extensive recreation opportunities. Once it is donated to the Town, the community will have access to most of Bailey Mountain through Smith Farm Park, Bailey Mountain Park, and the Bailey Mountain Preserve.