State officials plan to offer free day access to the property as they consider how to acquire the land before its sale.
Officials plan to reopen the embattled Fairfield Lake State Park starting Tuesday for day use as the Legislature considers how the leased property might be saved from being redeveloped into homes.
The park closed to the public two weeks ago, on Feb. 27, as Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff geared up to prepare the property for sale. The agency had leased the site for free for decades from Vistra Corp. and its predecessor businesses.
Vistra decided to sell the property after shutting down the coal plant it operated across the lake from the park in 2018. TPWD officials have said the agency wanted to buy only the portion of the property that included the park and the company didn’t want to sell it in parts. The state never submitted a bid.
The agency has three more months until it has to vacate the land for good. A company called Todd Interests plans to redevelop the site, to the chagrin of park staff and the many visitors who have walked its trails and boated on the lake for years.
At a House committee meeting last week, legislators questioned whether the park could stay open a bit longer as they figure out if anything can be done to save it in the meantime. Parks and Wildlife staff say they have now developed a plan to reopen the property temporarily starting 8 a.m. Tuesday, March 14.
Access will be free and first-come, first-served until the park is full, so there will be no reservations or camping.
“While we still stand committed to reaching a compromise that would save Fairfield Lake State Park for future use, our team will be working hard to keep this gem as accessible as possible for as long as possible,” Parks and Wildlife State Parks Director Rodney Franklin said in a statement.
Parks and Wildlife Commission Chair Arch “Beaver” Aplin III said in the statement that he looked forward to continuing his conversation with Vistra and Todd Interests.
Disclosure: Texas Parks And Wildlife Department has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
Photo: State Park Police Officer Kyle Ware points at a map of Fairfield Lake State Park in Fairfield on Feb. 27, 2023. Credit: Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune
BY EMILY FOXHALL with Texas Tribune.