Group continues to seek appropriate use of rugged Montgomery County tract
The wooded mountainside and creek valley behind the Thomas Lane neighborhood of Prices Fork won’t become a Montgomery County park – but they may still become some manner of private preserve or a part of Virginia Tech.
Randi Lemmon of the Friends of the Rivers of Virginia, the nonprofit organization that owns 44 acres that once were home to some of the region’s earliest European settlers, said recently that the group is seeking a conservation easement to limit future development and lower its assessed value.
After that, he wrote in an email, the rivers organization will probably ask the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors to remove the property from the tax rolls. Next, the group may convey the property to the Price Family Historical Society.
Or the rivers group might give it to Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources & Environment, which controls the adjoining 1,200-acre Fishburn Forest and is interested in adding to it, Lemmon wrote.
The group intended to give the property to Montgomery County as a new public park named for Harvey Price, Tech’s longest-serving dean of agriculture. Price, whose family lent its name to the Prices Fork community, once farmed the property, as had generations before him.
Price’s granddaughter, Anne Price Yates, who lives in Oregon, approached Montgomery County supervisors in 2010 and asked them to accept the land. The supervisors, who were in the midst of coping with the collapse of Blacksburg High School’s gym roof and debating an eventual decision to build new high schools in Blacksburg and Riner and renovate a middle school in Riner, said they had no money to develop a new park.
Yates donated the property to the Friends of the Rivers of Virginia, who this year again approached supervisors, saying they would help find grants or donations to pay for constructing a parking lot and other expenses.
But last month, supervisors voted to again turn down the offer.
Supervisor Bill Brown, whose district includes the proposed park, said he’d heard from residents who were worried about traffic or trespassers. Other supervisors noted that the county’s finances still were tight, and said there was not enough money for maintaining existing parks, much less developing a new one.
Lemmon wrote that Yates, who was traveling and could not be contacted directly, supported donating the property to either the Price family group or Tech.
Yates, a painter who has exhibited around the world, said earlier this year that she wanted the property to be put to public use that would honor her grandfather.
Jimmy Price, the historian for the Price Family Historical Society, made up of about 100 Price relatives, said the 44 acres under discussion includes the site where the family first settled in the community that would bear its name.
Four Price brothers had arrived from Germany in 1738 and made their way south down the Shenandoah Valley. They settled in the Horseshoe Bend area of the New River for a time, then in 1754 came to what would be called Prices Fork, Price said. They joined a community of German immigrants that had established itself three decades or so before the building of Smithfield in Blacksburg, Price said.
Three of the brothers soon moved back to the Shenandoah Valley. But Michael Price stayed, building a limestone fort around a spring during the French and Indian War.
That fort was partly on the 44-acre property now owned by the rivers group, Price said. Later Prices farmed and operated a grist mill there.
Regardless of what is done with the property, “I think everybody hopes it will be a benefit and not any kind of detriment to that neighborhood – and the historicity of that property will be preserved,” Price said.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1669
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