The Northwest Arkansas Land Trust paid nearly $3 million for 830 acres of land near Siloam Springs along the Oklahoma border that it plans to manage as the Lake Frances Preserve.
The purchase was funded by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation, the land trust said. The trust said the land was historic because it was once the site of the 70-acre Lake Frances, which was created by damming the Illinois River; the dam and lake no longer exist.
The seller of the property, which was transacted in several deals, was Lake Frances Park Inc., led by Stephen Sloan Thomas of Lake Oswego, Oregon, and a descendant of Frances Sloan Thomas, the original owner of the land. The lake was named after Frances Sloan Thomas.
The NWALT said the acquisition was the trust’s largest purchase and the preserve will be the largest conservation project in Benton County. The lake was once the centerpiece of a since-demolished resort catering to wealthy visitors.
The land now holds acres of pine and oak forests as well as several streams and an abundance of wildlife.
“We’re grateful and excited to showcase another example of a strong conservation partnership to save land in northwest Arkansas,” said Pam Nelson, director of land protection for the NWALT. “The Illinois River Watershed has been a priority for us since the land trust was founded. We’re honored to preserve a family legacy and the history of this important property along with the natural legacy which makes northwest Arkansas such a special place in which to live.”
The land trust said it will build public access to the property through hiking and multi-use trails.
“This is NWALT’s first partnership with the development and construction of hiking, running, and mountain bike single track trails to encourage public engagement with the preserve to better understand the significance of protecting these special habitats,” said Northwest Arkansas Land Trust CEO Grady Spann.