Texas State Park Land Sold to Developers

Fairfield Lake State Park | Image by NBC DFW

Fairfield Lake State Park will soon be closing.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) announced the closing of the park and notice to vacate on February 14.

This plot of land was leased at no cost to TPWD by Vistra, the owner of the property. It has been available for public and recreational use for over 50 years. Now, the organization has terminated the land lease with TPWD due to the impending sale of the parkland and surrounding property to Todd Interests.

Todd Interests is a major development company responsible for noteworthy projects in downtown Dallas, including The National, East Quarter, and Three Hundred Pearl. The company’s plans for the land include a gated community of multimillion-dollar homes, complete with a private golf course, according to The Dallas Morning News (DMN).

The park will officially close to the public on February 28. TPWD said it will cancel all overnight reservations after February 27. The organization expects these cancellations to “immediately impact more than 2,700 people.”

The lease had initially been extended into the fall of 2022, dependent on the sale of the land after the decommissioning of a coal power plant on the property in 2018.

TPWD attempted to purchase the property from Vistra, but the company declined because it did not want to sell only the parkland.

The department also sought to partner with any future buyer or acquire the land to continue public use, but Todd Interests did not want the land to remain a state park.

Many officials have expressed disappointment at the park’s closure.

“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 David Yoskowitz, executive director of TPWD, according to the press release.

Texas Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), chairman of the House Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee, said he and his committee would explore measures to preserve other state parks.

“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,” said Ashby in the release.

“I plan to work with members of my committee to determine how we can prevent this practice from occurring in the future,” Ashby concluded.

Vistra spokeswoman Meranda Cohn told the DMN that Vistra did not take any compensation for its lease and has cooperated with the TPWD over the years to keep the park open.

“We are proud to have made this privately-owned land available to generations of Texans for the past 50 years,” said Cohn, according to the DMN.

TPWD said it is continuing to explore ways to buy and expand the park. Vistra had originally listed the land at an asking price of $110 million, the DMN reported.

Purchasing the land would likely be funded at least in part by the taxpayer money collected under Texas Proposition 5, a constitutional amendment that directs sales tax on sporting goods to the TPWD that was passed in 2019.

Texas Rep. Angelia Orr (R-Hillsboro) has also filed legislation that would effectively block Todd Interests’ purchase and grant the state the ability to acquire the park property through eminent domain.

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