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Home / Browse / Fairfield Bay (Van Buren and Cleburne Counties)
Latitude and Longitude:
15.2 square miles (2000 Census)
2,338 (2010 Census)
July 29, 1993
Historical Population as per the U.S. Census:
Fairfield Bay, located in north-central Arkansas on the north shore of Greers Ferry Lake, was created with the goal of becoming a recreational and retirement resort. Though small in terms of residential population, the number of people who visit each year through the town’s timeshare program is well over 20,000. As of the 2010 census, the combined population of its Van Buren County and Cleburne County portions is 2,338.
Before the formation of Greers Ferry Lake in the mid-1960s, the hills of what is now Fairfield Bay were covered with large hardwood trees. Logging of these immense oak trees for lumber, railroad ties, and white oak barrel staves supported the thriving communities of Shirley (Van Buren County), Edgemont (Cleburne County), and Higden (Cleburne County). Construction of the Greers Ferry Dam, which created the 40,000-acre Greers Ferry Lake, dramatically changed this area of north-central Arkansas. The dam was dedicated in late 1963 by John F. Kennedy.
What is now Fairfield Bay started with the goal of three Fort Smith (Sebastian County) residents—George Jacobus, Neal Simonson, and Randolph Warner—to create a resort-retirement location on the north shores of Greers Ferry Lake. They hired a retired cotton broker named C. M. Owen to find a suitable location. In his Jeep, Owen followed the logging roads to a high point overlooking the green valley that was being filled to form the current Greers Ferry Lake. A new corporation, Fairfield Communities Land Company, formed by Jacobus, Simonson, and Warner, later to become Fairfield Communities Incorporated (FCI), began the purchase of land from the Nebraska Tie and Lumber Company, which owned the timber lands on the north shore of the lake. By 1965, the first 3,500 acres had been purchased by Jacobus and his partners. Lots were sold, and the price included a small annual amenities fee for the recreation facilities.
All early activities centered near the marina, which was built in 1966. In 1967, over 300 mobile homes were brought in to house the prospective lot buyers. The Wild Boar restaurant was built in 1967 on Highway 330. The second floor of this restaurant became the offices of FCI. The Civic Center building was built in 1972 and was where many of the social and community meetings were held. Also in 1972, the Fairfield Bay United Methodist Church was constructed. Before and after the Wild Boar restaurant burned in early 1980, the FCI offices and other businesses began moving to the present Indian Hills Country Club and the mall area on Dave Creek Parkway.
The initial concept of timeshare purchases of individual weeks in vacation homes was started by FCI in Fairfield Bay in 1979. The idea was to sell one-week-per-year occupancy in most unit buildings in order to bring the owner back to Fairfield Bay.
FCI formed the Community Club in 1967 with the responsibility of collecting the annual amenity dues and serving as liaison between FCI and the property owners. The sales of lots in Fairfield Bay peaked in the five-year period between 1980 and 1985. By the end of 2006, there were around 1,200 lots owned by Fairfield residents, and around 7,800 lots were owned by non-residents.
In 2000, the number of residents and visitors was 2,460 residents, 20,000 timeshare visitors, and about 30,000 Conference Center attendees. After the closure of the Conference Center in late 2000, the residents and timeshare visitors totaled around 27,500. In 2007, studies were under way to build a new hotel and municipal building to accommodate visitors, fishermen, and golf and tennis tournament attendees, as well as to provide facilities for concerts, plays, and conference attendees.
After FCI recovered from bankruptcy in 1993, the Community Club assumed control of the community. The City of Fairfield Bay was formed and incorporated on July 29, 1993.
Fairfield Bay has six churches: Fairfield Bay Baptist, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic, Faith Lutheran, Cornerstone Evangelical, Fairfield Bay United Methodist, and Kirk of the Hills Presbyterian. The residents of Fairfield Bay come from most of the states throughout the United States, with a few hailing from foreign countries. Residents from other areas in Arkansas make up the highest percentage of Fairfield Bay’s population. Residents that come from Illinois are the largest number from out of state, with Iowa, Tennessee, and Texas following close behind.
One of the most unusual sites within the city limits includes the 100-foot-wide, ninety-foot-deep, and ninety-foot-high Indian Rock Cave, formed by springs that eroded the sandstone cliff. Groups of Indians may have occupied this cave up to 4,000 years ago. Other interesting sites are the three totem poles carved by members of the Woodcarvers Unlimited group. The two twenty-foot Arkansas red cedar totem poles, one near the Log Cabin Museum and the other on Dave Creek Parkway, depict the history of the nation, as well as the history of the Indian Rock Village retirement apartments and nursing home, respectively. The third totem pole, thirty feet in height, is located at the front entrance to Fairfield Bays in the Ho: Wa’ park and includes the history of Fairfield Bay from the ancient mammoth to the bald eagle, which is now a year-round resident of the area.
Fairfield Bay is overseen by a volunteer city council, and the public safety of Fairfield Bay depends upon volunteer-operated fire and emergency medical services. Only the police department includes paid personnel. A top-quality library, operated by volunteers, is available to local residents and to visitors. Fairfield Bay features a well-known marine facility, championship tennis courts, two eighteen-hole golf courses (Mountain Ranch is one of the top five public golf courses in Arkansas and is on the Natural State Golf Trail), a museum filled with items of historical interest in this area, a fully equipped 23,000-square-foot HART (Health Recreation Therapy) fitness center, and many attractive residential areas.
For additional information:
Donald, Leroy. “Borrowed European Concept Proves Profitable for Fairfield Communities,” Arkansas Gazette, October 12, 1980, pp. 5E, 6E.
———. “Others’ Albatrosses Turn Profit for Fairfield,” Arkansas Gazette, October 19, 1980, pp. 5E, 6E.
Fairfield Bay. http://visitfairfieldbay.com/ (accessed February 11, 2016).
Fairfield Bay Chamber of Commerce. http://www.ffbchamber.org/ (accessed February 11, 2016).
Miesel, Jay. “Fairfield Bay Creates City Out of Bankruptcy,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 4, 1993, pp. 1B, 7B.
Fairfield Bay, Arkansas
Last Updated 2/11/2016
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