When the history is written on the slow-growth movement in Maryland's suburbs, the origin might well be traced to Accokeek, a forested crossroads in Prince George's County where the fight for land preservation goes back more than four decades.
Surrounded by pricey Tantallon to the north and booming Waldorf to the south, Accokeek's dominant feature isn't the latest shopping mall or subdivision, but the 1,500-acre Moyaone Reserve, a residential community with strict land-use rules that was developed, in part, to help preserve the Potomac River shoreline.
You wouldn't move to Accokeek for the restaurants: The only one is B&J's Carry-Out, specializing in barbecue and submarine sandwiches. Or the night life: Accokeek residents will usher in 1991 at the local Fire Hall.
But you might move for the peace and quiet -- a commodity the area is trying to hold onto as development closes in, local real estate agent Marie Bowie said.
People in Accokeek "want to leave the rush of Waldorf, they want to leave the rush of Tantallon," Bowie said.
The Accokeek area, with about 300 residents, is in the deep southern part of Prince George's County, near the intersection of Indian Head Highway and Route 373.
As Waldorf, in nearby Charles County, began to grow and the Prince George's County land rush moved south, Accokeek began to feel the pinch, Bowie said.
In fact, major builders like Winchester Homes have begun stamping out houses along Indian Head Highway. Bowie's firm, Accokeek Realty, has plans to develop another strip of the highway.
Mostly, though, Accokeek retains a small town feel, with restored farmhouses near country shacks or an occasional mobile home.
The "downtown," a collection of stores that are near a single traffic light off Indian Head Highway, includes the carry-out restaurant, a hardware store, Shack's Barbershop, two local realty companies and a gasoline station.
Major employers include Andrews Air Force Base and weapons maker Beretta U.S.A. Corp.
Houses in the area range in price from $105,000 to $700,000 for choice wooded sites, with lots costing $30,000 to $40,000 an acre, Bowie said.
In between is a mix of dwellings that can offer good value within a 45-minute commute of the District of Columbia, said Stephen Colton, head of the Accokeek Foundation, which runs the area's Piscataway National Park.
"The emphasis is not on ostentation," Colton said. "The emphasis is more on nature, a way of life."
Land for the Moyaone Reserve was first assembled in 1923 by Washingtonians Henry and Alice Ferguson and then subdivided into lots with a minimum of five acres as a way to limit development. The reserve is governed by a community association, with rules that include restrictions on cutting trees.
When planned development in the 1950s began threatening land across from Mount Vernon, then-U.S. Rep. Frances Bolton of Ohio, an officer in a women's group that had helped restore George Washington's plantation in the late 1800s, bought 485 acres of Maryland shoreline to preserve the view. The land was eventually incorporated into the reserve.
In the 1960s another preservation effort was mounted when the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission laid plans for a sewer plant across from Mount Vernon, according to a history of Accokeek's preservation battles written by Robert W. Straus, who helped found the Accokeek foundation along with Bolton and others.
When the commission responded to opposition with an offer to build the plant in the likeness of Mount Vernon, pressure began building on Congress to incorporate the Potomac's eastern shore into a park that would preserve George Washington's view. The result was Piscataway National Park.
Because of its woodsy character and restrictions on building, the reserve's 250 home sites see little turnover, Bowie said.
Houses that do come on the market usually are priced from $300,000 to $400,000, but some are much higher.
Elsewhere in Accokeek, the community is made up of a mix of Washington commuters, retirees and farmers, Bowie said.
The development boom has not yet hit with full force, she said, and with regional home sales slowing, it may not.
But that has disappointed no one, Bowie said. In Accokeek "they like their privacy," Bowie said.