AUSTIN – (Courtesy TPWD) June 10, 2023 – At a special meeting, Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorized Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to file a petition for condemnation and pursue acquisition at fair market value of approximately 5,000 acres in Freestone County to preserve Fairfield Lake State Park and Fairfield Lake for public use.
Commissioners also instructed TPWD Executive Director David Yoskowitz, Ph.D. to prepare a commission policy restricting the agency’s use of eminent domain to extraordinary and unusual situations. Commissioners will consider the policy proposal at their Aug. 24 meeting.
Today’s action comes after TPWD and its commissioners have taken persistent and extraordinary steps to acquire and preserve the park under more amicable terms.
“Condemnation represents an extraordinary step and last resort for TPWD, and it is not one we undertake lightly,” said Commission Chairman Arch “Beaver” Aplin III. “However, TPWD’s mission calls for managing and conserving the natural resources of Texas for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. Fairfield Lake State Park has welcomed millions of visitors over half a century, and we have a clear mandate to preserve this public resource that is beloved by so many.”
Located between Dallas and Houston near the rapidly developing IH-45 corridor, the park provides a wide variety of recreational opportunities to the public, including swimming, fishing, kayaking, camping and horseback riding.
It welcomes more than 80,000 visitors each year, with non-local visitors generating an economic impact of more than $1.14 million. Fairfield Lake is considered one of the nation’s finest bass fishing locations. It has produced 69 lunkers since 2020, making it one of the most productive fisheries maintained by TPWD.
“One hundred years ago, Governor Pat Neff presented a vision of Texas dotted with state parks ‘to be held in sacred trust by the State for the public good, now and forever,’” Yoskowitz said. “We have made great progress in fulfilling that vision, but demand for outdoor recreation has only increased, so while condemnation presents an extremely rare outcome we would have rather avoided, we cannot stand by and watch the permanent closing of a park and fishing location that has provided so many benefits to Texans and the local community for five decades.”
TPWD has long worked with private landowners to provide technical and financial assistance in the form of voluntary wildlife management plans, cost-share programs and other types of partnerships.
“TPWD has a track record of building coalitions to expand conservation and outdoor recreation across our state while supporting private property rights and Texas businesses,” said Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioner Jeffery Hildebrand. “This is a unique case, involving an established park with tens of millions in agency infrastructure investment, but given the importance of private property rights and the critical role private landowners play in wildlife conservation in Texas, TPWD will continue to reserve condemnation for the rarest and most unique circumstances.”