If you have ever had the pleasure of driving through the beautiful roads leading to the heart of Cherokee Village, you may have noticed the many Native American names that grace nearly all the street signs, or perhaps the glistening of Lake Thunderbird.
Many may wonder about the strange names and just how this retirement center got its start.
Cherokee Village was the brainchild of developer John A. Cooper.
The land was once a part of the Trail of Tears on which Native Americans traveled when the U.S. government pushed them from their land onto reservations. Thus, the name Cherokee Village is a respectful gesture to honor their heritage.
John A. Cooper established Cherokee Village in 1954 as a planned residential community that would attract not only retirees, but also new families to this area in Sharp County.
This plan incorporated golf courses, tennis courts, lakes and social opportunities for its residents. After all, for those not from Arkansas, many ask what there is to do in our area. Obviously Cooper anticipated this and planned the community to accommodate the needs of its new residents.
This city is comprised of over 15,000 acres in a resort style community. Cherokee boasts two 18-hole golf courses, seven lakes for boating or fishing, six swimming pools, a beach, tennis courts, recreation, fitness and senior centers.
The legacy left by John A. Cooper continues three generations later. John's grandson is now the head of Cooper Land Development, Inc. The development company continues to create beautiful family oriented residential and vacation areas similar to Cherokee Village.
The success these communities such as Hot Springs Village and Bella Vista, as well as Siena Lake in Arkansas and others in Tennessee, South Carolina, Missouri and West Virgina share, has created a model for other developers.
The reason Cooper chose these areas is their natural scenic beauty and the mild seasons. Many who initially purchased property in the area were from the North and wanted to retire in a quiet area with nice weather and familiar leisure activities.
After Cherokee Village began to flourish, the need for fire protection, money to repair roads and maintain many of the recreational areas was addressed. Cooper helped to establish the Suburban Improvement District (SID). This, coupled with Arkansas laws, enabled taxes to be charged on properties to help pay expenses for upkeep of the beautiful village.
Years later, on April 28, 1998, Cherokee Village would be incorporated as a city and begin the process of electing officials and beginning its existence as a city.
In 2000, after many moves and much negotiation, Cherokee Village began to move its officials into the vacant grocery store that once occupied the heart of Town Center.
The labor intensive project brought out the best in many as hundreds of volunteer hours were put into the renovation of the store to accommodate the mayor, clerk, police department, inspector and city council. This was truly a historic event.
Currently, with over 90 clubs and civic organizations, there is something for everyone, from golf to gardening, with which to spend time and be part of a community.
As you enter the Town Center area, the gardens are beautiful and clubs within the Village take the appearance of their city very serious.
Next time you drive through the hilly roads that lead you to this beautiful city, stop a minute to think of John A. Cooper and his vision over 50 years ago and see that it is still alive today.
Perhaps Mr. Cooper stated it best when he said, "This business is not a short-term one. We build places for people to live, so everything has to work now and it has to work 100 years from now." And it is obvious that it has and will continue to work during the next 50 years.