First established in 1965, the village is located on U.S. Route 71 at the end of Interstate 540 between Bentonville and the Missouri state line. Although originally primarily an affluent retirement community, recent growth includes many young couples and families. Prior to incorporation, Bella Vista was "governed" by its Property Owners Association, a private organization performing all the normal functions of a local government.
Bella Vista has eight lakes. These lakes are not "public" in that only members of the community or their guests are permitted to use them. Lake Ann, Lake Windsor, and Lake Loch Lomond are the largest all-sports lakes in the town. Lake Avalon, Lake Norwood, and Lake Rayburn are primarily fishing lakes with "no wake" restrictions. Current POA boat permits are required as are Arkansas fishing licenses, when fishing Bella Vista lakes.
When water temperatures rise above 60 degrees, it becomes the optimum time for fisheries biologists to capture fish to gather the necessary data to monitor and manage fish populations.
The warm weather attracts bass, bluegill and other fish toward the shallow shoreline areas, as their instincts guide them to forage and spawn.
Electrofishing is the most efficient method biologists have for capturing large numbers of fish to gather data, without harming the fish or the fish population.
Bowman will use a boat that is specifically built to put electricity into the water in the immediate vicinity of the bow. The fish, in that small area, are stunned, netted and placed in an aerated live well. All fish are returned to the lake after the necessary data is acquired.
The goal is to handle as many fish as possible and gather data, such as length and weight, and return them – unharmed – to the lake.
There are nine private, award-winning golf courses in Bella Vista Village.
Bella Vista Lake has a 1.8-mile (2.9 km) long walking/biking trail that goes around the lake. (The trail, however, is actually maintained by the City of Bentonville.) Tanyard Creek is another walking trail off Lake Windsor in the center of the village. It has a footbridge and some waterfalls except during dry times.
There were 7,818 households out of which 13.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 72.4% are married couples living together, 3.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 23.2% were non-families. 20.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.10 and the average family size was 2.38.
In the CDP the population was spread out with 12.3% under the age of 18, 3.0% from 18 to 24, 16.4% from 25 to 44, 26.3% from 45 to 64, and 41.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 61 years. For every 100 females there were 92.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.9 males.
The median income for a household in the CDP was $44,090, and the median income for a family was $48,233. Males had a median income of $34,547 versus $24,690 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $25,406. About 1.5% of families and 2.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.7% of those under the age of 18 and 1.0% of those 65 and older.
Bella Vista's Declarations and Protective Covenants is the "rule book" that governs the village. The Property Owners Association must follow this "rule book" composed of various articles. There are Class A and Class B members of Bella Vista Village. Class B refers to Cooper who gets 10 votes per lot owned and Class A refers to lots owners who receive one vote per lot owned. However, Cooper now owns too few lots to sway the vote. Both Class A and class B members must approve a vote before it is binding.
The POA is governed by a nine-member Board of Directors who serve three-year terms. They set the direction and long-term objectives for the POA guided by the village’s declarations and protective covenants. The day-to-day activity of the POA is directed by its general manager, with division heads and site managers responsible for the various departments and facilities throughout the village.
Carroll Electric Cooperative provides electricity for Bella Vista residents. Phone service is provided by SBC, and cable television is provided by Cox Communications. Village Waste Water provides sewer service to portions of Bella Vista.
There are two school districts serving the village. On the east side the Bentonville School District and on the west side Gravette School District.
Also serving the village is a private preschool, Bella Vista Montessori Academy.
Bella Vista began in 1915 when the Reverend William S. Baker and his wife, Mary, decided to convert their land about four miles (6 km) north of Bentonville, Arkansas, into a summer resort. During 1915-1916, they platted some of the land and created a lake by building a dam across Sugar Creek. Mrs. George Crowder of Bentonville provided the name, Bella Vista. Attempts by the Bakers to sell lots or draw people to the resort failed and in January, 1917, they sold their fledgling resort to the three Linebarger Brothers of Dallas, Texas.
F.W. Linebarger began developing the resort by platting additional land and building facilities that would attract vacationers to the development. In the spring of 1917 he constructed a pavilion near the lake and a lodge and dining hall on the first hill east of the dam. The resort opened on June 20, 1917. The Linebargers built a nine-hole golf course in 1920 and completed a large swimming pool in 1924.
While Bella Vista was a summer resort, the Linebargers expected to profit mainly from selling lots and building cottages for summer residents. Lots sold from $400 to $600, and a cottage cost from $1,000 to $1,500. Business flourished during the 1920s as more and more people went to Bella Vista to enjoy the amenities and to spend time in a more pleasant climate. By the late 1920s the Linebargers had sold more than 700 lots and built about 375 cottages. In 1929 they upgraded Bella Vista housing accommodations by building the Sunset Hotel, one of the finest in Northwest Arkansas, and in 1930 converted Wonderland Cave into a nightclub. However, changing vacation tastes, and the Great Depression and World War II combined to reduce and finally nearly eliminate the need for the kind of resort found at Bella Vista. In 1952 C.A. Linebarger, the brother in charge, sold the run-down property to E.L. Keith.
Keith, a Texan who had moved to Cave Springs, Arkansas, refurbished the resort and made it more attractive to families. He substituted roller-skating for dancing at the pavilion, fixed up the swimming pool, deepened the lake and had horses for trail rides. He also built a motel and opened a restaurant near Highway 71 at the west end of the Lake Bella Vista dam. Every Friday night was a teen dance, Saturday nights were for bingo and Sunday evenings were Cook-Out nights at Blowing Springs. The most popular band that played for the teen dances was the Cate Brothers. The swimming pool was extremely cold all summer because it was spring fed. There were paddle boats for the manmade lake available to residents and an island in the middle of the lake. The annual 4th of July fireworks display was ignited from this island by a fireball which traveled across the water to the island and set off the first of many beautiful bursts of color and great booms. Families came from all over the United States for the entire summer. These families developed their own traditions which had nothing to do with the village activities organized by the community officials. They had an annual trail ride, the annual walk into Bentonville on a back road led by the older of the kids with our final destination Applegate's Pharmacy for homemade pie in the drugstore soda fountain area of the store. Some of the activities were frowned upon by the local law enforcement.
By the time Keith had restored the resort, he had an offer to sell it. In late 1962 John A. Cooper, Sr., who had developed Cherokee Village about northwest of Jonesboro, arrived in Bentonville and announced that he was looking for property where he could start another recreational-retirement community. By 1964 his agents had purchased about 14,000 acres (57 km²) of land in the Sugar Creek Valley and in the adjoining hills and valleys beyond. However, he also wanted to include Keith's Bella Vista in his new development. Keith sold out to Cooper in January, 1964.
Cooper believed that people retiring earlier and with more income would be attracted to a development with good living and recreational facilities. He planned to build modern recreational facilities for the use of members. Everyone was a member who bought property, a homesite or home, and was entitled to use the amenities-- golf courses, clubhouses etc. He then turned these facilities over to a Property Owners Association to own and manage. Between 1965 and 1989 the Cooper Company, known after 1971 as Cooper Communities, Inc., built five golf courses (the POA built two), seven lakes, four major club houses and other amenities. The Property Owners Association, a private corporation governed by a board of directors, owned and managed the facilities for the members. From May 21 1965, when the first lots were sold, until 1995, CCI sold 37,060 lots or homesites, and built hundreds of homes.
In 2006 some residents were unhappy with having a private government that wasn't subject to the same legal accountability that other local governments were, and there were ongoing efforts to bring about the incorporation of the town. Petitions requesting an incorporation vote were approved by the County Judge and the issue was put on the ballot on November 06, 2006. Opposition to Incorporation started to form in Bella Vista Village.
Infrastructure issues currently exist for Bella Vista, where traffic levels are quickly increasing. Google provides a map showing the spur route Interstate 540 in Arkansas and the Interstate-standard US 71 in Missouri, which will eventually connect to become part of a long planned future Interstate 49. Some local refer to this as a western bypass or bypass of the current US 71 that runs through Bella Vista. Many in Arkansas and Missouri, especially truckers, are desperate to see the highway fully connected and flowing due to current traffic congestion.