Fairfield Lake State Park Closing To Public This Month
AUSTIN – After more than 50 years of public use and outdoor recreation by Texas families, Fairfield Lake State Park will permanently close to the public Feb. 28. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) was notified by its lessor, Vistra, the owner of the site, that the land lease for Fairfield Lake State Park was terminated due to the impending sale of the property. Texas State Parks has 120 days to vacate the state park before it is turned over to the new owner, Todd Interests.
“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. “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.”
Legislative leadership strongly supports helping TPWD 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.
“The recent announcement about the closure of Fairfield State Park is a huge disappointment,” said Rep. Trent Ashby, Chairman of the House Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee. “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,” he added. “I plan to work with members of my committee to determine how we can prevent this practice from occurring in the future.”
Beginning on Tuesday, Feb. 28, visitors will no longer have access to Fairfield Lake State Park. During this time, park staff will remove equipment and relocate staff members. Closure of the park also means removal of access to the two public boat ramps and a fishing pier on Fairfield Lake, a popular bass fishery. Public recreation on the lake will cease following the closure of the park, and TPWD will no longer manage the fishery resources. TPWD will begin contacting visitors to cancel upcoming overnight reservations for dates after Feb. 27, which will immediately impact more than 2,700 people.
Fairfield Lake State Park was acquired in 1971 by lease from Texas Utilities and opened to the public in 1976. The park, named after 2,400-acre Fairfield Lake, saw an average 80,000 visitors a year and was known for activities such as horseback riding, family reunions, paddling, fishing, camping and hiking.
The park’s recent lease with Vistra was extended until Fall 2022, contingent upon the sale of the property after the energy company closed the coal power plant located on the lake in 2018. TPWD sought to purchase the state park site, but Vistra would not consider a sale of just the parkland. TPWD also hoped to partner with a potential buyer or possibly acquire the property for continued operations. The new owner does not intend to use the property as a state park.
TPWD will continue to work to buy and potentially expand the park.
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]