Fairfield Lake State Park is a some 4,000-acre park located 96 miles south of Dallas, Texas. For the past 50 years, Fairfield Lake has been a popular fishing site, where its lake’s population of largemouth bass, catfish, tilapia, and perch attracted anglers across Texas. Visitors could set up camp, kayak, and/or explore miles of hiking, biking, and horseback trails. In 2022, the park attracted 83,000 visitors.
Over the course of this time, the park was leased to the state by its landowner, Vistra Corp., which ran a coal power plant on the property up until 2018. This past week, Vistra notified the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that it had sold the property. Effective February 28 of this year, the park will permanently close.
“Losing Fairfield Lake State Park would represent a significant step backward in our efforts to expand outdoor recreational opportunities for Texas’ booming population,” said Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Chairman Arch “Beaver” Aplin III in a press release.
Fairfield Lake State Park was sold to Shawn Todd of Todd Interests, a Dallas-based real estate developer for $110.5 million. Todd announced that plans were to convert the park into a private gated community with multimillion-dollar homes and a golf course.
“This loss is especially unfathomable at a time when we are celebrating 100 years of state parks, yet absent any cooperation or interest in working with us from the developer, we have no other options. Rest assured Commissioners remain committed to working with Todd Interests to maintain this important public asset and grow outdoor recreation in Texas,” said Aplin III.
Vistra Corp. claims it submitted a two-year notice to TPWD back in October 2020 with express intent to end the lease, according to Texas Tribune. Therein the state has ample opportunity to submit a bid, which it did not according to the Vistra Corp. spokesperson.
Aplin III refuted this claim, stating that neither corporate entity had the intention to sell any portion of the land.
“This is an unprecedented loss of a state treasure for Texans,” said David Yoskowitz Ph.D., Executive Director of TPWD.
“The demand for outdoor recreation exceeds supply in Texas, so losing even one state park is a set-back for all of us who enjoy publicly accessible lands. We have worked diligently to find a solution that would allow TPWD to purchase part, or all of the property, and it is unfortunate that an agreement could not be reached at this time with Vistra or the buyer.”
State Rep. Angelia Orr, R-Itasca filed legislation in an effort to seize the land for Texas parks and Wildlife Department by way of eminent domain. For it to succeed, the legislature would have to pass the bill and it would need to be signed by the governor.
“The prospect of a developer taking this treasure out of our state park system is deeply troubling,” said Rep. Trent Ashby, Chairman of the House Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee.
“Especially at a time when both the Governor and members of the Legislature have called for the expansion of state parks across the state”.
On February 28 of this year, the park is set to permanently close.
See also: New State Park Opening In Texas For The First Time In 25 Years