Fairfield Lake State Park is officially closing

At the end of the month.

A popular state park southeast of Dallas is poised to become an exclusive community with multimillion-dollar homes and a private golf course.

Fairfield Lake State Park will close Feb. 28 after months of negotiations between private companies and the state failed to secure a deal.

The landowner of Fairfield Lake State Park is selling the property to a Dallas developer, who plans to build the high-end gated community. On Monday, Texas Parks and Wildlife received a notice to vacate the 50-year-old lease within 120 days.

Although the park has been open to the public since 1976, the property is owned by Vistra Energy, which has leased the land to the state at no cost.

Vistra is selling to Todd Interests, the developer responsible for high-end projects in downtown Dallas, including The National and East Quarter. The developer, Shawn Todd, has indicated he will no longer lease the land to the state.


The park’s closure comes at a critical time: Texas is growing fast, with the population soon expected to hit 30 million. Park visitation skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic and shows no signs of slowing, park officials have said.

In 2021, Texas state parks had a record 9.94 million visitors. Last year, Fairfield welcomed 82,000 visitors, more than during any year in its history

On average, parks are seeing a 2% to 5% jump in visitors each year. This year, the number is expected to top 10 million for the first time.

Texas, however, lags behind other states in public parkland, according to a report by the nonprofit Environment Texas Research and Policy Center. The state ranks 35th in the nation for state park acreage per capita. Texas has 8 million more people than Florida, but 86,000 fewer acres of state parkland, the report says.

“Texas really doesn’t have enough state park land,” said Janice Bezanson, senior policy director for the Texas Conservation Alliance. “It’s particularly sad to see a popular park shut down at a time when we should be celebrating our state parks.”

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the state’s parks system, with numerous celebrations planned across the state. Later this year, Palo Pinto Mountains State Park is scheduled to open about 75 miles west of Fort Worth. It will be the region’s first new state park in 25 years.

Elected leaders on Tuesday bemoaned the park’s closure and urged the companies to continue to work with the state for a solution.

“Texas cannot lose a state park to development,” state Sen. Charles Perry, a Lubbock Republican and chairman of the state’s water, agriculture and rural affairs committee, said in a written statement. “Some 80,000 hardworking Texans will lose a place of solitude, sport fishing and priceless memory making if the park is closed.”

See here for the background. It’s a shame, but it’s not unexpected at this point. The real question is what if anything the Lege will do about it. I don’t see them taking action about this deal, though as we well know by now the current Lege has no problems with barging into situations it had previously left alone. As the story notes, more than a dozen other state parks are on leased land, meaning that someday this could be their fate as well. The Lege would be well within their normal parameters to do something there, and with a ginormous surplus the funds are there to just buy up all that land, which the TPWD didn’t have the money to do for Fairfield. So what’s it gonna be, Sen. Perry? You’ve done the talk. Got any action in there? The Chron has more.

UPDATE: A potential course of action, from the Trib:

State Rep. Angelia Orr, R-Itasca, whose district includes the park, filed a bill Tuesday that, if passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor, would allow Texas Parks and Wildlife to use eminent domain to seize the park’s land.

Orr said lawmakers also are working on a bill to prevent more state parks from being closed.

“This treasured piece of Texas has blessed our local families and countless visitors for generations, and losing it is hard to comprehend,” she said. “I join park lovers in Freestone County and across the state in expressing my sincere disappointment in hearing this news. As a result, we are now working on legislation to prevent this from ever occurring in any of our other beautiful state parks going forward.”

That us a clear path forward. Less clear that Republicans will take it, given how upset some of them are about eminent domain in other contexts, but ideological consistency is not the point here. I would classify this bill as an underdog, if only because most bills are, but if enough Republicans are upset about this, it will have a chance.

State Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, Chairman of the Business and Commerce, Finance and State Affairs Committee voiced his displeasure on Tuesday.

“Today’s heartbreaking announcement of the closing of Fairfield Lake State Park is a tremendous loss for Freestone County and all Texans who enjoy our state’s unique parklands,” he said. “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.”

There’s a bill that’s just been filed that may be of interest to you, Senator. Go talk to your colleague in the House about it.

Related Posts:

This entry was posted in The great state of Texas and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Fairfield Lake State Park is officially closing

  1. C.L. says:

    Ain’t never fished Fairfield, but this whole thing is just a bunch of buffoonery and shenanigans. First, TX is leasing lands that are also State Parks ? What numbskull State entity does that ? Second, TX had the opportunity to buy the land roughly two years ago from the owner but didn’t (’cause TX is strapped for cash and the rainy day fund has run dry ?), so the current owner wants to sell it to a new owner…who’s intent is to develop this lakeside land that out in the middle of nowhere ? It’s at least 90 mins to Dallas on a good day with no traffic. Hardly a bedroom community to the Metroplex.

    Props to Angelia Orr and Charles Schwertner for raising a ruckus, but Jesus Christo folks…you’re late to the party !

  2. Jason Hochman says:

    CL don’t worry, I have written to my state representative. Apparently she was unaware that the constitution was declared “not absolute,” by the president. This empowers the state to take the land, no compensation needed. She thanked me for telling her about the constitution. There is no way that the state would allow this land to be used for White Privilege like golf courses and “gated communities” which are fortifications for White people to hide within.

Comments are closed.