Mackay-Smith recipient of Clarke conservation award
Winchester Star article February 3, 2015
More than 21 percent of the 114,000 acres in Clarke County is protected by easement “in perpetuity” from development.
And the first recipient of the county’s new Land Conservation Award, Wingate “Winkie” Mackay-Smith, was “instrumental in making that happen,” according to Clarke Board of Supervisors member Michael Hobert. “You are a tremendous resource,” he told her at a luncheon Monday afternoon, where the Conservation Easement Authority presented her with the award. Mackay-Smith was the panel’s first chairwoman when it was established in 2002. She stepped down from the group in December 2013. Current chairman Randy Buckley said the award will be given annually to honor individuals, groups or organizations for “outstanding contribution made to conserve, preserve and protect land-based environmental resources” in the county. The authority’s immediate past chairman, George Ohrstrom, said picking the recipient was very easy. “In fact, when we started the discussion … last year, everyone around the table immediately agreed this person was the perfect choice,” he said. Indeed, the members agreed the award should be named for Mackay-Smith. Ohrstrom outlined the reasons. Mackay-Smith developed the criteria the authority uses to value individual easements and created guidelines for accepting properties into the easement program. She was a key player in negotiating the authority’s first easement purchase, historic Greenway Court, colonial-era home of Thomas Lord Fairfax near White Post. And, she worked for many years with the leaders at Holy Cross Abbey in eastern Clarke County to place 1,000 monastery acres in easement, protecting two miles of the Shenandoah River’s banks and a large part of the Cool Spring Civil War battlefield. “Under her leadership,” Ohrstrom said, “in its first decade, the easement authority negotiated 79 easements on 4,860 acres and retired 175 development rights.” In accepting the award, Mackay-Smith said she was galvanized by the threat to her previous home in Pennsylvania, when a big landowner decided to sell off a thousand acres of countryside for development. Moving to Clarke County with her husband, Matthew Mackay-Smith, showed her another pristine countryside. ”It was deja vu, all over again,” she said. Named to the Clarke Planning Commission in 1983, she learned about Clarke’s desire to save agricultural land and about conservation easements from her membership in the Piedmont Environmental Council. It was a way property owners could preserve their land that was “not dependent on a possible single vote in the future,” by a board of supervisors, she said. Because it established a Conservation Easement Authority, Clarke can now receive money from Virginia’s Open Space Preservation Trust Fund to help purchase easements. “Clarke is a model for the state of Virginia and beyond,” Mackay-Smith said, for open space and agricultural land preservation, and for concentrating development “where there is infrastructure to support it.” “I’m proud and honored to have participated in the process,” she said. — Contact Val Van Meter at
Author(s): Val Van Meter firstname.lastname@example.org The Winchester Star Date: February 3, 2015 Section: Area
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