FAIRFIELD, Texas – A privately-owned property that contained a Texas state park will be developed into a golf course and a multimillion-dollar home community, according to a recent report from the Dallas Morning News.
Fairfield Lake State Park is a 1,460-acre park within a 5,025-acre property in Freestone County.
The state first leased the park from Texas Utilities in 1971-1972 and opened it in 1976.
The park will close permanently on Feb. 28. It saw an average 80,000 visitors a year and was known for activities such as horseback riding, family reunions, paddling, fishing, camping and hiking.
Texas-based energy company, Vistra, put the entire acreage on the market several years ago for $110.5 million and according to the paper, it’s been purchased by a developer. The listing currently shows the land is under contract.
“After shuttering the power plant in 2018, Vistra placed a 5,000-acre tract — including the state park land — up for sale,” the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. “Officials with Texas Parks and Wildlife have repeatedly said that the state didn’t initially have enough money to purchase the full 5,000 acres, and Vistra was uninterested in selling just a piece of the land.”
Legislative leadership strongly supports helping Texas Parks and Wildlife Department acquire the land that is now Fairfield Lake State Park. Funds now available from the constitutional amendment dedicating sporting goods sales tax to support state parks could be tapped to make the land purchase, along with federal land and water conservation funds, a press release from TPWD states.
“It is unfortunate that Vistra and this private developer were unable to come to an agreement that would have allowed the state of Texas to purchase the park from Vistra to maintain it for future generations of Texans,” said Sen. Charles Schwertner.
Texas Parks and Wildlife received notice Monday that the 50-year-old lease will end in June of this year, chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Arch “Beaver” Aplin III told the paper.
“Losing Fairfield Lake State Park would represent a significant step backward in our efforts to expand outdoor recreational opportunities for Texas’ booming population,” Aplin III said in a press release.
Aplin III told the Star-Telegram that the developer, Dallas-based firm Todd Interests, indicated that there was no more room for discussion about the park land.
The property is a roughly 90-minute drive from Dallas.
Hortenstine Ranch Company partner/broker Blake Hortenstine previously told KSAT “a water asset of this magnitude is virtually impossible to find anywhere in the lower 48 states, and combined with the land development possibilities and amenities, is the only offering of its kind.”
Fairfield Lake, the largest private lake in Texas, is also part of the property. The lake is estimated to cover 2,400 acres with 21 miles of shoreline and is thought to be roughly 50 feet deep.
Executive Director of TPWD, David Yoskowitz, called the sale of the property an “unprecedented loss of a state treasure for Texans.”
“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,” said Yoskowitz.
An array of wildlife like whitetail deer, armadillos, river otters, beavers, squirrels, foxes, bobcats, songbirds and bald eagles live on the property, in addition to 180 species of birds including herons, raptors, songbirds, shorebirds and waterfowl that also live within the property boundaries.
“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.
Trent Ashby, Chairman of the House Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee, sale the recent announcement is a “huge disappointment.”
“The prospect of a developer taking this treasure out of our state park system is deeply troubling, especially at a time when both the Governor and members of the Legislature have called for the expansion of state parks across the state,” Ashby added. “I plan to work with members of my committee to determine how we can prevent this practice from occurring in the future.”
TPWD will continue to work to buy and potentially expand the park.
The new owner does not intend to use the property as a state park, the press release states.