The Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission and The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas announced this week an effort to conserve the 458-acre Blue Mountain, the westernmost peak in the Maumelle Pinnacles chain.
The commission is seeking grants from the Department of Arkansas Heritage’s Natural and Cultural Resources Council to provide $4 million for the project, according to Jen Barnhouse, director of philanthropy for TNC.
At the same time, TNC is raising another $2 million and has already raised 75% of that goal.
Half will go toward purchasing the property from PotlatchDeltic Corp., a publicly traded timberland real estate investment trust. It will use the other half for long-term management and the development of trails for hikers and mountain bikers; a welcome area where visitors could picnic; parking; and interpretive signage.
“So it would really be a nature experience. You would feel like you're in a place, just kind of walking in the woods, having a genuine nature experience … enjoyable and easy to use for people of all ages and abilities, really,” Barnhouse told Arkansas Business on Friday.
She called Blue Mountain a “conservation gem” because it’s a rare grassland habitat and home to rare and endangered species.
Barnhouse said TNC is raising money from “anyone who just loves to hike or bike or be outdoors or have places like this that are just close to the city and accessible. ... Quite honestly, if this mountain wasn't conserved, then it would be developed.”
TNC already manages an adjacent property, Rattlesnake Ridge, and is envisioning a trail system that links it to Blue Mountain, Barnhouse said.
Barnhouse said PotlatchDeltic made the first move, approaching the nonprofits a year ago to gauge its interest in buying the property. She said the pandemic increased the popularity of outdoor activities and demonstrated a need for conservation efforts like this one.
“The other thing is it's really the quality of life and economic development piece too, creating the kind of places that businesses and young professionals and families are looking for when they're thinking about the kind of places where they'd like to live and work and play, and really showcasing the best of what we have to offer around here,” she said.