A mother deer and four fawns walk across a green lawn

A Conservation Community?

What is a Conservation Community?

What is a Conservation Community?

Markham Hill, a new neighborhood set on a hilltop above the University of Arkansas, will be the first “conservation community” in Northwest Arkansas. To understand the conservation community approach, it’s helpful to understand typical development patterns. A conventional approach to real estate development might take a 100 acre parcel of land and divide it into 400 approximately equal lots. In contrast, a conservation community might provide the same number of homes, but cluster those buildings together on smaller lots, preserving tracts of land as parks or other protected lands. Conservation communities have ecological and social benefits over conventional developments.

In addition to providing beauty and identity, open land delivers tangible ecological services like storing and filtering stormwater, cleaning the air, and providing wildlife habitat. Where each home in a conservation community might have a smaller lot, larger continuous tracts of undeveloped land carry out these ecological functions undisturbed. In a conventional subdivision, undeveloped land is eliminated or fragmented and the ecological benefits are diminished. Conventional development also demands a greater amount of pavement in the form of roads, sidewalks, and driveways and requires longer stretches of utility infrastructure including poles, pipes, and cables.

Much like Fayetteville’s Washington-Willow neighborhood, the proximity of homes in a conservation community interspersed with pockets of common spaces provides organic opportunities to greet neighbors and build friendships. A conservation community makes nature its greatest amenity. Instead of mowing the yard, people who live in a conservation community may spend the weekend playing with kids in the neighborhood meadow or exploring nature trails just out the back door. 

By grouping homes closer together on smaller lots, more than half of the 144 acres of Markham Hill will be permanently preserved for the enjoyment of the neighborhood and all of Fayetteville. This development will protect and nurture greenspace, preserve tree canopy, protect natural habitats and provide connections to walking trails.

This Pocket Neighborhood designed by Ross Chapin clusters small homes around a shared greenspace. Clustering homes means that more land can be kept in nature preserve.

How did we choose the conservation area at Markham Hill?

In 2016, the Northwest Arkansas Planning Commission issued the NWA Open Space Plan, drawing from a two-year study including inventories of natural, heritage and cultural resources, and public input. The resulting plan established areas of highest preservation priority – this guided our choice of the permanent preserve.

Graphic NWA Open Space Priority Plan
This detail of the NWA Open Space Priority Map shows the Markham Hill property outlined in blue, and the neighboring property owned by University of Arkansas in Red. Interstate 49 is shown in dark brown on the left side of the image. Darkest green shades the highest priority areas for conservation. The dashed blue and white lines show the Markham Hill property that will be permanently preserved. Half of the remaining land will also be preserved, the exact locations yet to be determined.


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