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Building on the Bayou: Wetlands Meld with Homesites at Devoe Bend

4 min read

Eric Holloway traces his affinity for White Oak Bayou back more than 40 years when he explored its marshy course in the countryside between Maumelle and Interstate 40. Today, the water tupelo-lined wetlands of his youth lie in one of the most active residential development zones in Arkansas.

Holloway estimates that 1,000 homesites in the area have gone through planning approval by the cities of Maumelle and North Little Rock since White Oak Crossing bridged the bayou and connected with its namesake interstate interchange.

He hopes to leave an influential development mark on the White Oak Crossing corridor with his 48-lot Devoe Bend project.

“The thing I care about the most is integrating communities with nature,” said Holloway, a civil engineer by training and a conservationist by temperament. “We want to affect consumer demand in what they expect from new residential development.”

The 41.4-acre gated Devoe Bend neighborhood, which includes nearly 16.5 acres of green space, borders on part of a 2-mile stretch of White Oak Bayou that retains water year-round. This section takes on the characteristics of an oxbow lake when other portions of the channel lose surface water during the dry season.

When development crept ever closer to the property, Holloway decided to buy it and control what its future would look like. The Devoe Bend site is part of a 182-acre tract that he assembled during 2021-22 in three buys totaling more than $1.2 million.

“About 85 acres of those acres are wetlands, and I won’t develop anything on that,” said Holloway, owner of Holloway Engineering Survey & Civil Design in Maumelle and president of the White Oak Bayou Wetlands Conservancy.

He’s working on the logistics of donating 16.7 acres along the south side of White Oak Bayou, land that adjoins the eastern perimeter of Devoe Bend. As part of that effort to help build a public wetlands park, Holloway hopes to attract state grant funds this year to develop a canoe and kayak launch on the property.

“That’s something I’m working on now,” he said. “I may have to give the land to the conservancy to accomplish that, which is fine. If the grant has to be done by a municipality, I’ll donate it to the city.

“The conservancy is working with both Maumelle and the city of North Little Rock to develop a master trail plan and public wetlands park along White Oak Bayou.”

A mile-long private walking trail through Devoe Bend’s green space is a template for what an extended public trail could look like along the bayou, starting on Holloway’s future donation property and linking with Burns Park.

Meandering Wetlands

White Oak Bayou starts in Camp Robinson, flows southwest into Maumelle before meandering south into North Little and heading southeast into Burns Park before finding its way into the Arkansas River. Design engineering to minimize the impact of development on the bayou is an important consideration for Holloway.

“We’re trying to implement, in little ways, new water quality standards that aren’t really expensive,” he said, citing sand filters, swales, vegetation buffers and wet ponds to cool the water from pavement runoff as examples.

Five houses are under construction at Devoe Bend with another 10 in the pipeline. (Karen E. Segrave)

“When you’re trying to work with the land, hydrology is probably the hardest thing. When you’re developing property, you want to limit the impact on the land around it. Having a mindset that’s willing to consider these sorts of things helps.”

Upstream from Devoe Bend, the city of Maumelle owns 290 acres dominated by wooded wetlands, part of the 27,000-acre White Oak Bayou watershed. The city acquired the property about 20 years ago.

“Maumelle was very aggressive because they knew development was going to move over toward White Oak Bayou,” Holloway said. “They came with a plan for wetlands preservation, recreation and development.”

Five houses are under construction in Devoe Bend, and another 10 are about to start. Minimum building requirements for living space are 2,500 SF for one-story homes and 2,700 SF for two-story houses.

“I think we’ll have people living here by mid-April and maybe as many as 10-15 by mid- to late summer,” said Holloway, who retains veto power on any residential tree felling.

The development’s name is a nod to the nearby Devoe Lake, a historical label for another section of the White Oak Bayou channel that retains water year-round. Devoe is attributed to an anglicized spelling of a phrase from old French translated as beautiful valley.

“I’m not sure about the valley, but someone must’ve really liked the view,” Holloway said of the name that appears on surveys dating back to the 19th century.

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