Thousands of people visit this specific park each year, and local families use it for events like reunions and birthdays. The destination offers water activities, hiking, bird-watching, and more.
But now a developer has plans to build a gated community on the land. And if legislators can’t stop it, the park will be a thing of the past.
Want to learn more about the future of this local favorite?
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Fairfield Lake State Park in Texas Set to Become a Gated Community
Fairfield Lake, a man-made lake constructed in 1969, was once a cooling reservoir for a nearby power plant. But in the early 1970s, the state of Texas decided to lease the lake and surrounding land for use as a state park. Fairfield State Park welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors in the coming decades, reaching over 80,000 visitors in 2022 alone.
The lake is popular for bird-watching, bass fishing, and other outdoor activities.
But now, it faces an uncertain future. Big Brown Power Plant ceased all operations in 2018 before being demolished in 2021. Today the company that once operated the plant is looking to sell the 5,000-acre area, including the entire state park. And a Dallas-based company plans to develop a gated community on the land.
Texas House representative Angelia Orr has vowed to save the local favorite. But several others could suffer the same fate. Right now, 15 of Texas’s state parks are owned by private companies. Until Angelia Orr’s bill passes, Lone Star State citizens could lose access to some of their favorite destinations.
About Fairfield Lake State Park
Fairfield State Park opened to the public in 1976. Located 100 miles southeast of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, it occupies more than 1,400 acres of land and water. You can enjoy fishing, boating, swimming, and water sports. The destination also includes ten miles of nature trails for hiking, biking, or horseback riding.
The area looked very different hundreds of years ago. Indigenous communities lived, hunted, and fished on the land before American settlers arrived. The area was used for corn and cotton farming until World War II. Ranchers used the land to raise cattle after the demand for those crops fell.
Vistra, the company that owns the land, decided to sell in 2018. Despite offers from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, they aren’t interested in proposals from the state. But officials haven’t given up on saving the area for public use.
Fairfield State Park currently offers day passes with no camping options.
What Is a Gated Community?
You’re probably familiar with the term “gated community.” These development or planned communities have limited access and security staff.
Gated access gives residents an increased sense of safety and privacy. Gates also reduce neighborhood car traffic. Most gated communities have fantastic amenities like pools and parks. Some even have dedicated gyms, hiking trails, dog parks, and golf courses. Many of these neighborhoods have HOAs that ensure lawns, streets, and shared areas are clean and well-kept.
But there are some drawbacks to gated communities. The limted access means leaving your neighborhood to get groceries, run errands, work, and take your kids to school. It adds up to lots of driving. You’ll find delivery services are harder to use since drivers won’t know how to access your neighborhood.
And while HOAs keep the area looking nice, they also tend to be strict. No funky exterior paint colors, no over-the-top lawn decor, no noise after 9 PM…you’ll have a lot of rules to follow.
What Are the Impacts of Fairfield Lake State Park’s Closure?
Fairfield State Park is one of the region’s most popular outdoor recreation spots. The news of its possible closure hit residents hard. It shut down in late February 2023, and staff packed equipment and supplies before relocating to other sites around the state. Fairfield Lake reopened temporarily for day visits in the middle of March 2023.
Residents have enjoyed the state park for nearly 50 years. They hosted family reunions, birthday parties, and other celebrations on the grounds.
Activities like boating and fishing are local favorites. But closure means losing water access and fish, which the Parks and Wildlife Department was in charge of stocking.
Outdoor fun isn’t the only thing at stake with the park’s closure. Residents are also concerned about the local economy. Each year thousands of people pass through the city on their way to the park, stopping in Fairfield for food, supplies, and other items.
The developer claims that a gated community will boost the economy, but it could be years before the residents feel those gains.
How Can the Loss of Fairfield Lake State Park Be Prevented?
The fight to save the park isn’t over. House representative Angelia Orr’s bill, HB 4757, passed with bipartisan support at the end of April 2023. The bill demands that landowners get permission from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission before using water from Fairfield Lake. This bill essentially stops the developer from starting work on the gated community.
Meanwhile, two bills are in the works within the Texas Senate. SB 1648 and SJR 74 would create the Centennial Parks Conservation Fund. This would allow lawmakers to use state funds to prevent the future loss of other state parks.
The struggle isn’t over, but legislators and Texas state park employees are hopeful about these bills.
DID YOU KNOW: 10 Must See State Parks in 2023
Communities Cherish State Parks
Fairfield State Park is a treasured part of its community. Residents have enjoyed access to the lake and surrounding land for nearly half a century. If the remaining state Senate bills pass, that enjoyment can continue.
You can’t camp at the lake right now, but you can still visit before evening. Enjoy a peaceful day of bird-watching or listening to the waves on the lake. Just like the residents of Fairfield, you’ll be grateful this park exists.
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