Gateway Park’s unique location provides a distinctive opportunity to enhance ecological value and diversity. The design of the park focuses on preserving, restoring and augmenting the existing prairie, woodland, and riparian ecosystems present on site to provide an expansive, natural setting for park activities.
Located at the headwaters of the Elk River Watershed, Gateway Park will filter stormwater runoff from adjacent urbanized parts of Bentonville. The enhancements to site hydrology will not just be performative but experiential as well. New filtration gardens and enhanced watercourses will be both visible and accessible to visitors, offering opportunities for education and recreation.
With thousands of new tree and understory plantings installed strategically throughout the park, new areas of habitat for birds, pollinators and small fauna will enhance this 100+ acres of new parkland sited between two of Northwest Arkansas’s most notable ecoregions—the Elk River Hills and the Springfield Plateau.
The western third of Gateway Park is where the scale of the park landscape can truly be experienced. Comprised primarily of open prairie and pasture, this portion of the grounds reflects both the historic Osage Prairie and the site’s more recent agrarian past. The large, open landscape is punctuated by stands of existing and new trees that frame the edges of a plateau that transitions eastward into a rolling hillside.
On the east end of the park, just south of 8th Street, is an existing low-lying woodland that presently functions as a floodplain, receiving much of the stormwater runoff from adjacent parcels east of the park. Gateway Park’s design enhances this condition, introducing gentler slopes, stabilized edges to the existing creek, and native understory planting. These improvements create a new infiltration garden that slows and filters stormwater runoff before it heads down stream, eventually reaching the Elk River.
The overall landscape strategy for 8th St. Gateway Park focuses on improving water quality and enhancement of the diverse existing landscape character present on the site. The eastern third of the site is generally characterized by woodland landscapes, while the western third is characterized by more open prairie landscapes, leaving the center of the park as a true transitional landscape. Two visible creek corridors run through the park and are distinguished by areas of wet woodland canopy.