The Morning News
Local News for Northwest Arkansas
Efforts Aim To Preserve Fayetteville’s Urban Forest
By Skip Descant The Morning News
FAYETTEVILLE — The mayor is calling it Fayetteville’s Central Park. It’s 67 acres of trails winding their way along the east side of Mount Sequoyah, eventually bringing hikers to the new Underwood-Lindsey Pavilion.
“This land we’re seeing right now is preserved in perpetuity,” Mayor Dan Coody said to a crowd gathered about two weeks ago under the new pavilion built of Arkansas boulders and enormous white oak timbers.
The land, known as Mount Sequoyah Woods, is owned by Fayetteville, with the Fayetteville Natural Heritage Association holding the easement. This preserves the property from development. The natural heritage association raised $479,000 to help purchase the property that until 2006 was owned by the Western Methodist Assembly. The final payment to the city completing the association’s commitment to raise $300,000 was completed about a month ago.
“Our success has been way beyond our wildest dreams,” Bob Caulk, a member of the association, told the Fayetteville City Council recently.
The forest — which some naturalists say supports 15 squirrels per acre, a conservative figure — was in danger of being developed.
“There were at least two developers looking at this property,” Coody said as construction crews could be heard in the distance.
Like many Ozark hillsides, Mount Sequoyah Woods was logged in the early 1900s, and still holds the remnants of a few old homesteads, Caulk said.
“There are several stone walls in the park, suggesting farming,” Caulk explained. “There are many trees scattered throughout the park that are older, perhaps virgin, but most are less than 100 years old.”
But today, the park is a maze of unpaved and loosely defined trails.
“The key to the future is to get kids out in the woods,” Caulk said, at least half-seriously. “We may be the last generation of free-range kids. Everybody seems tied to computers.”
The pavilion, which resembles the naturalistic and sturdily built structures put together on parkland all across the country by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, was designed and lead by Robert Runyan, a carpenter who has spent a lifetime perfecting traditional building techniques.
“We thought long and hard and we knew we wanted a pavilion, but we weren’t sure what kind,” said Pete Heinzelmann, a member of the Fayetteville Natural Heritage Association.
The most striking feature of the pavilion is the white oak hand-hewed timbers Runyan found down in Winslow.
“A lot people don’t think you can still build this way anymore,” Runyan said from the pavilion site. The key to sound buildings, Runyan added, is a well-built foundation.
“The foundation of a house is probably the most important thing there is, and it’s what’s often skimped on,” Runyan said.
The pavilion’s foundation is some two feet deep. The secluded location prevented heavy concrete mixing trucks from accessing the site and the concrete was trucked to a site further up the hill, where it flowed through a pipe system, Runyan explained.
“The logistics of getting materials from point A to point B was probably the biggest challenge,” Runyan said.
Fayetteville Natural Heritage Foundation
By The Numbers
Land preserved by the Fayetteville Natural Heritage Association
100 acres of urban forest
2 acres of urban wetland
Source: Staff Report