Agreement will preserve over 50 acres on Markham Hill

This detail of the NWA Open Space Priority Map shows Specialized’s property outlined in blue, and the neighboring city-owned land 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 Specialized property that will be permanently preserved.

Courtesy Specialized Real Estate Group

A deal to conserve a portion of land atop Markham Hill has been signed and sealed.

Specialized Real Estate Group last week announced it has signed a letter of intent with the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust to pursue a conservation easement of more than 50 acres on the property just west of the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville.

The wooded land is adjacent to a 62-acre hillside parcel that the city acquired from the university earlier this year for preservation.

Specialized first announced plans to preserve the forested area in 2018 as part of a project that will expand the Pratt Place Inn and event center and build a multi-phase neighborhood.

A conservation easement protects land from ever being subdivided or developed. The terms of the easement stay with the property deed and are upheld in perpetuity.

The area to be preserved contains a variety of large oak, hickory, maple and ash trees and traces of century-old logging roads and hand-built native stone walls and culverts, according to a news release. Much of the land was identified by the land trust as the highest priority in its Northwest Arkansas Open Space Plan.

The hillsides, rock outcroppings, springs, and mature forests will be permanently protected and carefully maintained, the release stated.

“As the population of Northwest Arkansas grows, we cannot consume land at the rate as we have in the past,” said Specialized CEO Jeremy Hudson. “If each household continues to consume a quarter acre of land or more, this place that we love will soon disappear. Our land-use plan for this property provides new housing and services to meet the needs of our growing region while preserving a beautiful natural area. In partnership with the land trust, we aim to create a new neighborhood with healthy habitat for people and nature alike.”

Aside from a new neighborhood, plans for the surrounding area owned by Specialized include adding retreat and meeting space and up to 80 guest rooms in small cabins and a hotel building near Pratt Place Inn. A farm-to-table restaurant and a small cafe are also a part of the project, as is continued hosting of the Fayetteville Roots Festival’s culinary events.

Specialized officials said they have begun documenting the local ecology with a botanical inventory and a study of three-toed box turtles in partnership with University of Arkansas biologists, and are planning to open nature trails to the public later this year.