The scene out the windows of Matt Hill’s home is what you’d expect from high up in a treehouse. All you can see are trees, trees, trees.
“It reminds me of western Oregon,” Hill said, which was one motivation to buy the property when he moved from the Pacific Northwest a little over a year ago.
Hill lives in the Moyaone Reserve, a rural, forested 2,800-acre community alongside Piscataway National Park in Accokeek, Md., a small town in southwest Prince George’s County about 15 miles from Washington. Dense tree stands and heavy canopy, plentiful underbrush and shrubs, and a ground cover of amber, yellow and orange leaves are the scene there now.
There are 247 properties in the Reserve, 191 of them with houses. Ten miles of privately maintained unpaved roads connect residents and visitors.
Seeing what George Washington saw: It’s hard to discern the houses from the road, because they sit deep in wooded lots.
A distinctive feature of the Reserve is a five-acre minimum lot size that’s protected by scenic easements deeded to the federal government — the National Park Service. Easements were established in 1960 to protect the land from development and to preserve the view from Mount Vernon on the opposite bank of the Potomac River.
“People didn’t want to see giant mansions when they were at Mount Vernon. They wanted to see what George saw,” said Sheryl Romeo, a real estate agent who works in the Reserve. She adds a copy of the deed restrictions to all her offers and makes it available in houses she sells.
People living in the Reserve share a strong attachment to the natural landscape. “It’s a diverse neighborhood, but what ties everyone together is protecting the land,” she said.
“If you want to know when the roads will be paved and streetlights installed, this is not the neighborhood for you,” she added.
The Moyaone Association pays for road maintenance and upkeep of common areas. Membership, at $650 a year, is voluntary and allows use of the pool and community center. “But the most important thing it does is advocate for preservation of the easements,” Romeo said.
Forests and farms: House styles vary from modest ramblers to estates with swimming pools and guesthouses, from mid-century modern to cabins, from a newly built Acorn Deck House to red-brick Colonial Williamsburg design. Hill lives in a farmhouse-style home built in 1981.
Romeo and her husband, Mathew Schwaller, a NASA rocket scientist, built a passive solar house in 1987 and raised two daughters, now 28 and 25, there.
Two foundations are headquartered in the Reserve and deeply ingrained in its life and well-being.
The Accokeek Foundation at Piscataway Park cares for 200 acres of forest, fields and waterfront along the Potomac River and encourages public visits with interpretative programs. Children delight in the sheep, cattle, hogs, chickens and turkeys at National Colonial Farm and get a feel for 18th-century farm living.
The Alice Ferguson Foundation stewards 320 acres comprising several ecosystems, manages Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center, runs environmental and natural resource programs, and sells eggs and broiler chickens. On Oct. 8, Alice Ferguson Farm was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
On a recent day, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, the Washington Monument and the roof of the mansion at the Mount Vernon estate could be glimpsed. “This is a fabulous location. We’re literally across the river from the home of the father of our country,” said Lori Arguelles, executive director of the foundation.
Transportation: The community is remote but accessible. The best route from downtown is via the Capital Beltway’s Indian Head Highway exit.
Capitol Hill is “only 35 minutes without traffic,” said Hill, a lobbyist representing the Oregon Indian Tribes who works from home but goes to meetings there. Old Town Alexandria is about 20 minutes away; National Harbor and Tanger Outlets are 15 minutes.
Park-and-ride lots and express buses to the District operate from the Food Lion in downtown Accokeek. Safeway, Giant, Food Lion and My Organic Market are close by.
Living there: The approximate boundaries of the Moyaone Reserve, Zip code 20607, are the Potomac River to the north, Marshall Hall Road to the east, Old Marshall Hall Road to the south and Farmington Road to the west.
According to Romeo, a real estate broker with Sheryl Romeo Real Estate, the community’s housing consists exclusively of single-family homes.
Four houses are for sale, at prices ranging from $375,000 for three bedrooms and two bathrooms to $549,000 for five bedrooms and four baths.
One property is under contract, a three-bedroom, two-bath house for $278,000.
Eight properties sold in the past year, from $300,000 for a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house to $575,000 for three bedrooms and three baths.
Schools: J.C. Parks and Henry G. Ferguson elementary; Eugene Burroughs and Theodore G. Davis middle; Accokeek Academy for elementary and middle; Gwynn Park High.
Crime: The Prince George’s County police report nine assaults, five robberies and five burglaries in the past 12 months.
Audrey Hoffer is a freelance writer.