Cities: December 2007 Archives

For nearly 40 years, I have been traveling to and through the two counties -- Washington and Benton -- that constitute what is now the northwest Arkansas metro area. My grandparents lived in Bella Vista in the late '60s, with brief stays in Bentonville and Rogers. When they moved to Mountain Home in the '70s, we drove through Siloam Springs and Springdale to get there. In 1986, I began dating someone who lived in Rogers and Fayetteville, and so made a trip there at least a couple of times a month. In 1989, I married her, and so there have been regular trips to see the in-laws ever since.

1986 was also the beginning of the construction of the superhighway -- now I-540 -- linking Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, and Bentonville. In 1989, the rolling hills of the pig farm across Horsebarn Road from my in-laws place was staked out to become Champions Country Club.

So it's from that perspective that I say this:

What planners and developers have done to northwest Arkansas is analogous to using the works of John Constable for toilet paper.

With some foresight and vision, growth could have been accommodated while preserving open space and extending what had traditionally been walkable communities. Instead, cities have deliberately enabled the worst of strip development (think 71st Street on steroids) and segregation of uses.

The northwest Arkansas suburban smear is 25 miles long and about five miles wide. Because of the way jobs and retail are strewn along the corridor, it's likely that a NWArkie's typical day involves more driving than that of a Tulsa metro resident, and the region is going to suffer more from higher energy costs than more compact areas.

It's tempting to go into a Jim-Kunstler-esque rant here, but Jim Kunstler does it so much better than I ever could. He's never been to Walmartland as far as I know, but he's seen plenty of places that look just like it. (Note: That link leads to extremely salty language, an attempt at conveying the urgency of the situation he sees and his frustration at the idiocy of the response. This speech from two years ago is a good, non-salty summary of his concerns about sprawl development, peak oil, and how it adds up to what he calls "The Long Emergency.")

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Cities category from December 2007.

Cities: November 2007 is the previous archive.

Cities: January 2008 is the next archive.

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