Legislators Support Saving “Our Park”: House Committee on Culture, Recreation & Tourism
March 9, 2023
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TPWD Considers Temporarily Reopening Fairfield Lake State Park
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AUSTIN—Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and its Commission welcome the support expressed by legislators during a Thursday hearing of the House Committee on Culture, Recreation & Tourism. Committee members reiterated their desire to continue communication with TPWD, Vistra Corp. and Todd Interests to save Fairfield Lake State Park.
“For Texans, Fairfield Lake State Park is a rare treasure providing vital recreational space,” said Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Chairman Arch “Beaver” Aplin III. “When I hear Texans talk about this park, I hear them call it ‘our park.’ I heard it again today, when Freestone County Judge Linda Grant talked about the significant economic impact ‘our park’ and its 80,000 annual visitors generate for her county. She referred to it as ‘our park,” and it is our park. It’s everyone’s park, and I look forward to coming back to the table to try to find a compromise that would allow Texans to keep it.”
Committee members, including Chairman Trent Ashby, voiced support for preserving Fairfield Lake State Park for public use. Additionally, Committee members asked TPWD to consider temporarily re-opening the park. TPWD staff are discussing options for re-opening the park for day use. The park closed Feb. 28 after Vistra terminated its lease with TPWD in preparation for sale to Todd Interests, which plans to develop the property.
In fiscal year 2022, the park welcomed 82,555 visitors. Visitation has increased significantly in the last four years – up from 58,991 in 2019. TPWD has committed $70 million in infrastructure, including buildings, barns, residences, roads, utilities and a boat ramp.
The committee also discussed:
- Issues including access to two cemeteries located on the state park grounds. Fairfield Lake State Park has two known cemeteries on the property that include gravesites dating back to the 1880s – Chancellor Union Cemetery and Freedman Cemetery, which was discovered on the property in 2002.
TPWD has honored and protected the gravesites within the park property by shielding them from public exposure and by commissioning an extensive archeological study in 2007 to better understand those sites and other historic, archeological features.
- The impact of diverting 14,000-acre feet of water from the lake, considered one of the nation’s finest bass fishing locations. Supported by TPWD’s Toyota Sharelunker Program, the lake has produced 69 lunkers since 2020, making it one of the most productive fisheries maintained by TPWD.
Aplin pointed out this could reduce the lakeshore by half and devastate aquatic life. Public access to Fairfield Lake ceased when the park closed.