What is the Bailey Mountain Preserve?
- The Bailey Mountain Preserve consists of two adjoining properties available to public foot travel that are owned by The Richard L. Hoffman Foundation and the Town of Mars Hill. The Preserve encompasses over 250 acres, including much of the southern slope of the mountain, including: to the west of Connor Ridge the headwaters of the White Oak Branch and Hamp Gap, and to the east of Connor Ridge the Smith Farm parcel down to 885 Forest St. Bailey Mountain is the highest peak visible from the Town of Mars Hill, and figures prominently in the history of the Town and Mars Hill University. The park offers six contiguous miles of hiking trails for the enjoyment of the public.
Why is the Bailey Mountain Preserve Important?
- When the two adjoining parcels of the original Bailey Mountain Park property were offered for sale in 1996, many local residents were alarmed that Bailey Mountain might be lost to future generations. Local residents and students often climbed Bailey’s slopes in scholastic initiations, traditions and exploration. The local community joined with state agencies and non-profit partners to secure and purchase those parcels in 1996, but access required easement access over private lands. Years later, on the other side of Connor Ridge, a magnanimous owner offered sale of the Smith Farm at Forest St. Gracious patrons and community fundraising led again to the Town of Mars Hill’s closing on this property in 2017, preserving more of the mountain while ensuring more convenient access.
What does the Smith Farm property have to do with this?
- The 89-acre Smith Property borders the Town of Mars Hill and includes a significant portion of Bailey Mountain’s eastern slope. The Smith Property has been seen as the key parcel in creating uninhibited public access to Bailey Mountain. To access the existing Bailey Mountain Property requires a drive of 3.5 miles from town with a right of way that crosses two private landowners. Acquiring the Smith property will provide public access directly from a public roadway within walking distance from town. The acquisition will protect the waters of Banjo Branch stream, create a parking area and trail head, expand the Bailey Mountain Properties by protecting an additional 89 acres of Bailey Mountain’s eastern slopes, protect an additional section of the Bailey Mountain view shed, and serve to expand and connect the envisioned trails to the Bailey Mountain Greenway Trail. The Smith Property is a strategic acquisition for The Richard L. Hoffman Foundation, the Town of Mars Hill, Mars Hill University, and Madison County (Project Partners), in that it serves as a connecting property between the existing Bailey Mountain Property and the efforts of the Town of Mars Hill and Mars Hill University in their plants to create a combination of riparian and street side passages for the recreational and functional pedestrian use. This project represents an expansion of a greenway/riparian trail (Bailey Mountain Greenway Trail) to connect with Bailey Mountain Park. According to Darhyl Boone, Town Manager, “The Town of Mars Hill realizes the importance of having a network of pedestrian infrastructure an facilities to serve the population and workforce. In 1996 the Town completed a strategic plan that recommended an increase in pedestrian and recreational facilities. In 2001, the Town updated the Land Development Plan which also supported pedestrian travel options, and the 2009 Pedestrian Plan developed a vision regarding pedestrian facilities throughout the Town.” Both the Town and University are financial and strategic supporters of this acquisition. Madison County, through its Parks and Recreation Comprehensive Plan has recognized the need for access to Bailey Mountain that provides six miles of hiking rails now available for the enjoyment of the public.
We appreciate your support!
Want to get involved?
The Friends of Bailey Mountain group meets quarterly to support stewardship of the mountain, including preservation, management and access. We are open to all. The Chair reports concerns and recommendations to the Town Manager of Mars Hill.
Click this link if you would like to join the Friends of Bailey Mtn group:
For more info, contact Ryan Bell, Chair at BaileyMtn@mhu.edu or 828 689 1381.